The Race Is On After Feds Pave Way for Driverless Trucks

A self-driving logistic delivery truck is seen during a test at a Suning logistics park on May 24, 2018 in Shanghai, China.
A sensor on the bumper of self-driving truck in Shanghai. The U.S. Department of Transportation will adapt its regulatory definitions of commercial truck drivers to include automated operators.

THE MOST OPTIMISTIC analysts project that trucks with empty cabs and a computer at the wheel will travel on U.S. highways in as little as two years with no escort or safety driver in sight now that the Trump administration has signaled its willingness to let tractor-trailers to become truly driverless.

The U.S. Department of Transportation this month announced that it will "no longer assume" that the driver of a commercial truck is human, and the agency will even "adapt the definitions of 'driver' and 'operator' to recognize that such terms do not refer exclusively to a human, but may in fact include an automated system."

The statements were part of a roughly 70-page document outlining the agency's latest interpretation of the existing federal laws and regulations that govern autonomous vehicles. The document falls short of formal rulemaking, but it is authoritative, experts say, signaling where the federal government will – and will not – intervene in the rollout of driverless trucks

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