Autonomous technology can improve safety: Navistar

CEO Clarke optimistic of AV technology and role of drivers in the future

Autonomous technology can improve safety: Navistar
Clarke wants to see AV safety and design legislation.


Navistar International chairman and CEO Troy Clarke made a case of autonomous vehicle (AV) regulation at a US Senate Committee hearing recently.

The hearing, Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and our Nation's Highways, focused on the future highway safety benefits of applying automated technology to trucks, buses, and other heavy-duty vehicles, in addition to the effect they will have on the economy and jobs.

Testifying on behalf of the trucking industry at the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, Clarke says a clear "legislative and regulatory environment for vehicle manufacturers to design, test and validate autonomous technology will help ensure that the technology is safe when it is deployed for larger market consumption".

Clarke urges US authorities to include commercial vehicles in legislation to establish federal regulatory standards for autonomous vehicles.

"Autonomous technology is an extension of the safety technology already in place today, and we believe greater levels of self-driving technology will help reduce human error, which today accounts for 94 per cent of all motor vehicle accidents," Clarke says.

"This technology can help support the driver to create a better driving experience and make our roads safer."

Clarke says the commercial vehicle industry has proven that regulations and technology can work together "to advance the interests of all stakeholders".

"As federal regulations are being drafted and implemented, we want to ensure that passenger and commercial vehicles are following similar safety and design standards for optimal compatibility," he says.

In Australia, the National Transport Commission (NTC) has been tasked with delivering a reform allowing automated vehicles to operate safely and legally on Australia’s roads by 2020.

NTC and Austroads had recently released national guidelines for trials of automated vehicles in Australia.

Driver role in automated vehicles

During the hearing, Clarke also discussed the importance of the driver's role in the future, stating that drivers will be more highly skilled and trained to manage multiple vehicle assets for optimised safety and efficiency.

"As we develop technologies that could lead to completely autonomous vehicles, we will make many of them available to provide today's drivers with greater ease of use, comfort, safety, productivity and efficiency – factors that, we believe, will attract more people to this important and noble profession," Clarke says.

While this may be true, concerns for the future livelihoods of drivers were highlighted by a study conducted by four transport-related entities – the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, International Transport Workers’ Federation, International Road Transport Union and the International Transport Forum.

The report, Managing the Transition to Driverless Road Freight Transport, suggested that between two million and 4.4 million truck drivers in the US and Europe could become redundant by 2030 if efforts to introduce driverless trucks maintain their current momentum.

Volvo Group Australia (VGA) boss Peter Voorhoeve voiced a similar concern related to driver jobs recently, saying the human cost of autonomous vehicle technology may evolve to be just as huge as the estimated financial gains.

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