Companies such as Locomation have been studying one use case for automated technology and team drivers — platooning. - Photo: Locomation, 2021

Companies such as Locomation have been studying one use case for automated technology and team drivers — platooning.

Photo: Locomation, 2021

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking to use driving simulators to study the potential use of team drivers in Level 4 autonomous trucks.

In a notice published in the federal Register, FMCSA is inviting comments on a proposed study titled “Safety Impacts of Human-Automated Driving System (ADS) Team Driving Applications.”

It is a driving simulator study with a series of questionnaires that aims to quantify the safety implications of team driving applications between humans and ADS-equipped commercial motor vehicles, according to FMCSA.

Potential Relief From Hours of Service

Specifically, this study will focus on team driving applications with an SAE Level 4 (L4) CMV. In L4 automation, vehicles are capable of all functions and controls necessary for driving without human monitoring in limited conditions, and the human driver will not be asked to take over control of the vehicle. The L4 CMV will not operate outside of the conditions it was designed for without human control.

The study will assess the safety benefits of and potential problems with human-ADS team driving applications and support the analysis of potential requests for relief from FMCSA's hours-of-service regulations.

FMCSA cited a “paucity of … [FMCSA] research related to ADS-equipped CMVs.”

To date, it said, most commercial ADSs on U.S. roadways are in passenger vehicles, and CMV ADSs are only recently being implemented in real-world operations. Therefore, FMCSA needs more data on commercial motor vehicles equipped with these automated driving systems to understand the human factors surrounding team driving applications between humans and ADS-equipped CMVs.

Teaming Human Drivers With Autonomous Trucks

FMCSA outlined four use cases where a human could team with an ADS-equipped CMV:

  1. In-vehicle driver teams with an ADS CMV;
  2. In-vehicle driver teams with a following ADS-equipped CMV;
  3. In-vehicle driver teams with a remote human to monitor and control an ADS CMV; and
  4. Remote monitor/operator teaming with ADS CMV.

Each of the use cases offers different potential human factors benefits and challenges, the agency noted.

“However, it is unclear how each human-ADS teaming use case will affect safety, productivity, and efficiency. Each teaming combination may positively or negatively affect a driver's cognitive workload and level of fatigue, alertness, or distraction compared to the case of a traditional driver in a truck without ADS. For example, the in-vehicle drivers and remote monitors/operators in the above teaming use cases may experience varying workloads and differences in the development of fatigue.”

The study includes data collection from a series of questionnaires and a driving-simulator focused experiment. The collected survey data will support the simulator experiment data.

Approximately 80 commercial vehicle drivers are expected to participate in the study. Eligible drivers will hold a valid commercial driver's license, currently drive a CMV, be 21 years of age or older, and pass a motion sickness history screening questionnaire.

Comments must be received no later than August 7.

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