Waymo, UPS, others pressure Gov. Newsom to allow autonomous trucking in California

By Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch

Waymo, Aurora, UPS and Luminar are among a group of 34 autonomous vehicle developers, California business organizations, and automotive and logistics companies that have signed an open letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to revisit the California Department of Motor Vehicles’s 2015 prohibition on the operation of autonomous trucks in the state.

California began regulating autonomous vehicles in 2012, and has been the key battleground state for robotaxi operations. Late last week, Cruise began charging for fully driverless rides, and Waymo recently opened up driverless testing for employees in San Francisco. Despite opening up AV regulations to larger AVs for the purposes of delivery in 2019, the DMV’s regulations continue to exclude autonomous testing or deployment of vehicles weighing more than 10,001 pounds.

Texas, the state that’s getting all of Silicon Valley’s tax refugees, has been home to most of the nation’s autonomous trucking operations, with companies like Waymo Via, Aurora, Kodiak Robotics, TuSimple and more either testing or operating commercial partnerships. Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada and Colorado also have testing and deployment regulations for autonomous trucks.

California has been a leader in regulating lightweight autonomous vehicles, specifically for robotaxis, but those behind the letter to Newsom argue that without updated autonomous trucking regulations, the state will fall behind on technological progress and business opportunities.

“Without regulations to permit this technology, California is at risk of losing our competitive edge,” reads the letter. “As the industry deploys new pilot programs, builds critical infrastructure, and creates the 21st century jobs California’s businesses need to grow, investment is limited to other states that allow deployment of autonomous trucks.”

The letter sites a recent study released by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation, an advocacy group with a mission to maintain Silicon Valley’s place as the international capital of tech innovation, that finds automated trucking in California could increase the state’s economy by $6.5 billion or more and generate up to 2,400 new jobs.

In states where autonomous trucking is legal and regulated, AV companies are not only testing and deploying their tech, but they’re also setting up the infrastructure needed to operate a commercial service.

For example, Waymo Via has been doubling down on its transfer hub network in Texas, which allows the company to engage a mixed automated and manual trucking approach that ensures the Waymo Driver, Waymo’s AV stack, sticks to main thoroughfares and human drivers handle first and last mile deliveries.

The letter was signed by a range of industry advocates, from AV tech companies like Waabi, Embark and Einride, to logistics companies like DHL Supply Chains, UPS and US Xpress, to members of various California chambers of commerce and more.

Neither Newsom’s office nor the DMV responded to TechCrunch in time with comments.

California recently passed the SB 500, a law that dictates any light duty autonomous vehicles operating in the state would have to be electric by 2030. While Monday’s letter to Newsom says signees would welcome the opportunity to work with the governor’s office to develop a regulatory framework around autonomous trucking in the state, the group is more focused on getting the green light to put heavy duty trucks on the road rather than ensuring autonomous trucking in the state is done with zero emissions vehicles from the get-go.

“Part of the problem here is that we’re at a standstill, meaning that nothing can happen,” Peter Katz, president and CEO of Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, told TechCrunch. “So when you talk about should they be electric, or should they be gas-powered, it’s almost way too far in advance of a question. First, we got to figure out what the requirements are in order to be able to reply to those intelligently. In the view of businesses, this is a logjam that really needs to go away so all other things can open up and start flowing.”

The letter sent to Newsom on Monday follows a similar letter to the governor that was written by a group of seven California legislators and sent in May. That note requested information from the administration on steps the DMV has taken to understand emerging heavy-duty AV trucking technology and its implications in California; why California has lagged behind other states on AV trucking regulation; and when the DMV will commence the rulemaking process for heavy-duty AV trucking and by what date will it have such regulations complete.

Workforce development is critical to our future. My company is trying to help.

By Akio Toyoda, Dallas Morning News

America holds a special place in my heart. Ever since my first trip to Alabama as a child, I was hooked on the American dream and the idea of mobility for all. I studied at Babson College in Massachusetts, then worked at a New York investment bank, followed by a stint at New United Motor Manufacturing in California. In a way, I was nurtured by America, and all the wonderful people I met along the way.

Today, in the U.S., Toyota has 10 plants in 10 states and employs nearly 245,000 people, including dealerships and suppliers, and our success is due to our people. That’s why it’s important for us to work with communities to strengthen the future workforce. To me, education is the great equalizer. It can create life-changing opportunities or serve as a social and economic divide when not evenly distributed.

Over the past 65 years, Toyota has invested $33.6 billion in America. We have announced investments totaling $5.1 billion into our manufacturing operations, including a battery plant in North Carolina — our 11th U.S. plant. Globally, as part of our efforts to go all-in on electric vehicles, we plan to build 70 electrified models by 2025.

In the business community, there is a growing concern about being able to meet the challenges of tomorrow without furthering STEM education opportunities.

The rapid pace of innovation requires a collective effort to create pathways to high-tech, high-growth jobs of the future. From self-driving cars and electric vehicles, to artificial intelligence and machine learning, the world of the future will be different than today, requiring a different education system.

This issue affects not just Toyota, but all automakers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 860,000 manufacturing job openings in the U.S. in January, compared with 519,000 a year earlier. The number of unfilled manufacturing jobs could reach 2.1 million by 2030, according to Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.

My grandfather, Kiichiro, who founded Toyota Motor Corporation, also felt strongly about the importance of a good education and training. In 1938, Toyota set up a technical school and began working to develop talent, as well as cars. This philosophy continues today.

Since 1991, we have supported family literacy programs, and provided assistance for STEM education. In West Dallas, Toyota created a PreK-8 science and technology education program with local educators, nonprofits and social-service organizations. Our partners are the Dallas Independent School District, Southern Methodist University and the broader West Dallas community.

This STEM school provides new literacy, reading and writing programs, and even goes beyond the classroom. Our partners coordinate social services needed by students and families, with after-school programs, mentoring, a community center and food pantry.

We will expand this type of involvement to 15 communities where we have operations, from Long Beach, California to Buffalo, West Virginia. This program, called Driving Possibilities, represents a $110 million commitment by Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Financial Services, and is designed to reach 10,800 students and their families annually. Working with communities, non-profits, schools, governments, and others, the program will serve as a roadmap for creating talent by eliminating educational disparities to help students grow and succeed. It’s also designed to address basic needs that impact learning such as mobility, food insecurity, and after-school programming.

And this isn’t our first investment in skills education. Years ago, Toyota founded the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME). Twelve states operate a FAME chapter where community college students seeking careers in manufacturing receive paid training while attending school. Enrollees earn associate degrees and certification as advanced manufacturing technicians (AMTs), while working part time in manufacturing facilities and being paid competitively by one of the 400 participating employers. When they graduate, they’re job ready. About 85% of AMTs who complete the program go on to work for their sponsoring employer.

That’s why I’m excited about Toyota’s Driving Possibilities. For thousands of students, this program can be their ticket to a high-growth career. We also hope it inspires other companies, research institutions and communities. Everyone will benefit by making education count and help create the workforce of tomorrow.

Toyota’s U.S.-Japan partnership has flourished thanks to the shared values and mutual respect forged by the people of both countries at all levels. At its heart lies education and developing people. And as a company that calls both America and Japan home, Toyota will continue working to support students and all citizens of these great countries to help ensure we can, and will, provide mobility and happiness for all.

Akio Toyoda is president of Toyota Motor Corporation. He wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.

How the Pandemic Accelerated Change for Motor Carriers

By Jerry Hirsch, Transport Topics

Few industries came under as much pressure and made as many adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic as trucking.

Looking back over the more than two years since the pandemic first hit, executives in the trucking, freight and logistics space see permanent changes resulting from how this historic event altered the economy, consumer behavior and business interactions.

While the lockdowns, factory closures, sky-high spot shipping rates and many other effects turned out to be transient, other changes appear to be longer lasting.

The pandemic launched or accelerated trends that included higher driver wages, a shortening of some routes to match shopping patterns and increased digitization and automation across the supply chain.

Like most things in trucking, the changes started with drivers.

“Our industry has been battling the driver shortage challenge long before the pandemic. Unfortunately, COVID exacerbated the issue,” said Brad Carmony, vice president of brand communications at U.S. Xpress.

Retirements in an aging workforce increased as older drivers didn’t want to be exposed to the ­virus or didn’t like the restrictions the pandemic forced on the industry.

Meanwhile, job seekers could choose from many employment options outside of trucking as many industries across the economy faced their own labor shortages.

Along the way, driver pay rose significantly as motor carriers and private fleets increased wages to retain drivers and attract new workers to deal with the increased freight demand resulting from the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Walmart, for example, now pays drivers as much as $110,000 in their first year with the company. Some will earn more based on how long they have worked for the company and their location.

The retail giant, which markets itself as a “destination job” for drivers, is a bellwether for the industry as both for-hire motor carriers and other private fleets must raise wages to keep pace. The company employs 12,000 drivers.

Rising Interest in Automation

The scarcity of drivers and other transportation workers created a greater focus on applying technology to solve those shortfalls.

“The pandemic has made a lot of people take another look at autonomous trucking,” said Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst at ACT Research. “It will take some time to gain acceptance, but once it does, it will happen quickly because of the competitive advantage.”

The idea of shipping freight without the labor cost of a driver always looked tempting, but motor carriers have moved cautiously while testing how autonomous trucking might work.

Fleets that have dipped their toes into autonomous trucking have been careful to assure drivers that they will not be displaced by the technology.

“We look forward to building a hybrid world where drivers continue to haul freight while autonomous trucks supplement rising demand,” Werner Enterprises CEO Derek Leathers said when he announced a deal to partner with self-driving vehicle developer Aurora Innovation to test automated freight hauling.

Werner, which also has partnered with other self-driving truck companies, is one of a growing number of for-hire carriers and private fleets that have reached deals with autonomous technology companies to test self-driving trucks and explore which routes are ripe for introduction.

Werner, based in Omaha, Neb., ranks No. 17 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

Automating Warehouses and Digitizing the Back Office

Similarly, automation increased inside warehouses and distribution centers as companies worked to fulfill a growing volume of orders from consumers and took steps to streamline labor-intensive tasks such as picking and packing.

Nearly all new GXO Logistics contracts for warehouse and logistics clients include some element of automation, said Mark Man­duca, GXO’s chief investment officer.

He said that technology includes robotic arms, vision technology and “cobots” — mobile carts that carry goods within a warehouse.

The increasing comfort with remote work and less face-to-face contact also is pushing the digitization of back-office operations, said Shawn Vo, co-founder and chief technology officer at Axle, a startup that manages carrier payments and provides a factoring platform for freight brokers.

“You are moving to a virtual workplace,” Vo said. “Digital workflows are being built to replace paperwork like sending invoices and signing proofs of delivery.”

Elsewhere, companies are using technology to better plan routes and execute transportation that acceler­ated with the increase in ­e-commerce due to the pandemic, said Avi Geller, CEO of fleet management tech­nology firm Maven Machines.

E-commerce surged as consumers avoided physical interaction and became accustomed to ordering a wide range of goods online, including oversized items such as furniture and appliances.

“The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to e-commerce. The ease and convenience of ordering goods with a click on the phone is here to stay,” said Kevin Sterling, senior market strategist at XPO Logistics.

Adjusting Supply Chains for E-Commerce Growth

According to a report by Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent more than $870 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2021, up 14.2% from the previous year.

Absent the pandemic, e-commerce sales would not have reached that level until 2023, according to the retail information company’s estimates. The pandemic generated more than $218 billion in extra U.S. ­e-commerce revenue during the past two years, according to the report.

The e-commerce acceleration made retailers, shippers and carriers alike look at how the supply chain operates and make changes to better meet consumer expectations.

Companies such as online retailer Amazon are locating more warehouses and fulfillment centers in metropolitan areas to speed up delivery. That has pushed less-than-truckload carriers to move to deliveries in residential areas more quickly, changing the type of equipment they used, as well as some routing. Many carriers saw their routes shrink as they moved goods between a denser network of warehouses and distribution centers.

“We are seeing shorter length of haul as shippers position goods closer to the population centers,” XPO’s Sterling said.

XPO is changing the configuration of its warehouses by adding terminal doors to its existing facilities to improve service and efficiency.

The LTL carrier plans to grow by about 900 doors to more than 17,000 by the end of 2023.

“We are targeting the largest cities where the growth and cus­tomer demand is. It is a strategic approach,” Sterling said.

At the same time, the company is changing its pricing structure. Sterling said a decade ago shippers only looked at the best price. The pandemic and accompanying supply chain and capacity disruptions accelerated a move to higher ­pricing based on reliability and quality.

“That is a sea change in the industry. People aren’t beating each ­other up over price anymore,” Sterling said.

XPO, based in Greenwich, Conn., ranks No. 3 on the for-hire TT100.

Supply Chain Disruptions and Pricing Trends

In a stressed supply chain, companies want to ensure they can move their goods without damage and with accurate delivery times.

While the broader effects of inflation in the economy might reduce consumption and impact freight volumes, “there are still a few kinks in global supply chains that will take time to straighten out,” said Charles Simpson, vice president of strategic intelligence at U.S. Xpress.

“Think of the backlogged orders that still must be filled, for example,” he said. “Also, the prospect of further lockdowns and port closures in China have the potential to create a good bit of chaos this summer and beyond once those ports and factories come back online.”

U.S. Xpress, based in Chat­tanooga, Tenn., ranks No. 23 on the for-hire TT100.

Motor carriers have pushed through contract rate increases across the industry as freight demand soared. That raised pricing to a new level and fueled record revenue and profits for many carriers.

Although always cyclical, the wave in the rate cycle has changed, ACT Research’s Denoyer said.

“When rates go down, the trough will be higher than what we would have expected,” he said.

Meanwhile, the growth of e-­commerce has increased certain types of freight that require different pricing. Objects such as furniture and kayaks take up more space and are harder to pack in a trailer.

“You won’t be able to fill up the truck as much. You have to price appropriately to move the awkward freight,” XPO’s Sterling said.

Another industry change is the growing level of remote work that grew out of the office shutdowns in the early days of the pandemic.

The Resilience of Remote Work

While there will always be positions that must be on-site simply because of the nature of the job, such as drivers and shop technicians, there are other positions in accounting, customer experience and project management that can be performed well from a remote location, U.S. Xpress’ Carmony said.

“Moving forward, we will shift into an environment where people work in the space that is most conducive to their performing their individual jobs,” he said.

The motor carrier is changing its workflow to account for that.

“For remote team members, there will be times when coming on-site will be required,” Carmony said. “But we’re making the commitment that any time we require on-site attendance, there will be a specific purpose such as a training, new-hire orientation or a meeting that is likely to generate better outcomes in person.”

Remote work also provides motor carriers with the opportunity to recruit from a wider field of candidates, depending on how much on-site work the position requires.

“We won’t let geography keep us from attracting the best people for the company,” Carmony said.

All told, the pandemic reinforced how the trucking industry can apply technology to solve some of its largest problems.

“The demands of shippers will get more aggressive in terms of speed, visibility and reliability. That challenge for trucking will increase,” Maven Machines’ Geller said. “The companies that leverage technology will thrive. The pandemic acceler­ated that.”

Opinion: California supply chain needs autonomous trucks jumpstart

By Peter Leroe-Munoz and Ariel Wolf, The Mercury News

The supply chain crisis is part of daily life for California’s consumers and businesses. In the Bay Area, prices increased 1.5% this spring — and 5% over the past year. Customers know to expect a long delay on purchases, and restaurants are reworking menus to accommodate rising food prices (up 10% from last year). With diesel averaging $6.51 per gallon, fuel costs are being passed along to the consumer in surcharges and higher prices.

There are a lot of reasons for today’s inflation and supply chain dilemmas, but one stands out: The number of truck drivers can’t keep up with demand. And it’s expected to get even worse. As Gov. Gavin Newsom and California lawmakers consider all opportunities to keep the supply chain running and get prices down, it’s time for the Golden State to support autonomous trucks as a medium-term solution for a long-term problem. First and foremost, the Newsom administration should initiate the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) rulemaking to allow autonomous trucks to test and deploy.

The truck driver shortage was a problem long before the pandemic. The American Trucking Association estimates the country is short 80,000 drivers, and this shortage is expected to double to 160,000 by 2030. The industry also faces extremely high turnover rates. For both new entrants and those considering retirement, the burden of long, stressful hours spent away from their families outweighs the allure of a decent-paying long-haul job. Truck drivers face higher-than-average rates of obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Autonomous trucks are poised to be active partners with drivers, backfilling the need for long-haul drivers while fostering short-haul jobs that alleviate the heavy physical and mental tolls of long-haul driving. A new study found that autonomous trucks can contribute at least $6.5 billion to California’s economy, while adding approximately 2,400 jobs, increasing output without necessitating mass layoffs of the state’s truck drivers. Many companies already are based in the Golden State. California’s talent is building the innovations of the future while supporting their local economies in areas such as the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Autonomous trucking already has created thousands of high-paying jobs in neighboring states — vehicle operators, maintenance workers, technicians, engineers and more — and the sector’s growth will require more hires. The successful partnership of human-driven and autonomous trucks was confirmed by a study from the Department of Transportation projecting the technology will create up to 35,100 jobs per year, raise wages for all workers and spur $111 billion in investment.

This technology also presents an array of environmental benefits. Autonomous trucks can stay away from crowded urban areas during rush hour and reduce congestion, because they’re not limited to a human driver’s schedule. With optimized driving, they can reduce fuel consumption by at least 10%. By never getting distracted or needing to stop for rest, autonomous trucks can cut days off cross-country long-haul trips. Removing these limitations from the industry can keep supply chains at peak efficiency, which means on-time deliveries for groceries, goods on shelves, critical medical supplies plus more happy customers across the state.

Unfortunately, until a rulemaking is enacted in California, none of these benefits or efficiencies can arrive. In 2012, the Legislature directed the California DMV to create rules for autonomous vehicles. Yet a decade later, autonomous trucks are still explicitly prohibited from testing in the state. The Newsom administration should act now to start the rulemaking and adopt regulations allowing for the testing and deployment of autonomous trucks.

Truck drivers are working hard, but the shortage is simply unsustainable. Already frustrated with rising prices and product shortages, California cannot afford to rely solely on stopgap, short-term measures to reinforce our supply chain in the long term. The Golden State needs to move forward on autonomous trucks so goods can keep moving.

Peter Leroe-Muñoz is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group general counsel and senior vice president of technology and innovation. Ariel Wolf is counsel for the California Alliance for Freight Innovation.

Why Urban Warehouses Are Good For Autonomous Vehicles

By Clint Williams, Ground Truth

As more warehouses are built in urban and suburban communities, autonomous vehicle use could become a new kind of solution for deliveries.

Multi-story warehouses in densely developed urban areas are common in Asia, but fairly new in the United States. The first multi-story logistics facility in the United States was developed in Seattle in 2018. The trend is catching on and three New York City boroughs – The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens – have more than a dozen urban warehouses operating or in development. Other multi-level warehouse projects are underway in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

And with these new kinds of warehouses come new kinds of delivery options, according to Travis Feuerbacher, Senior Business Development Manager at Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle technology company.

These urban warehouses cost about 30 percent more to build than the sprawling, single-level warehouse facilities typically found in rural and suburban areas. But higher construction costs – and the higher rents that result – are offset by lower transportation and logistics costs. Adoption of autonomous vehicles will drive down the costs of that critical last-mile and what Feuerbacher calls “the urban middle-mile.”

“Drivers are increasingly hard to find in the tight labor market,” said Feuerbacher. “You’re saving the overhead of finding, training and retaining drivers.”

The “urban middle-mile” is the space between manufacturing hubs and warehouses and places that store goods to be delivered closer to their destinations. But it’s not the final mile bringing those goods to consumers. Sometimes these facilities are urban warehouses or mini fulfillment centers. AVs can shuttle goods in smaller quantities than trucks, offering more flexibility and customization, as well as 24/7 shipping.

Even before the pandemic, consumers were turning to online shopping for everything from cars to coconut milk. In Manhattan, 15 percent of households got a package delivered every day, according to Ann Melissa Campbell, a professor of business analytics at Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa.

The global pandemic dramatically accelerated the shift to e-commerce — online spending in 2021 was 50 percent greater than 2019. That means more packages on more stoops. In New York City alone about 2.5 million packages are delivered daily. And these customers are increasingly demanding, expecting next-day and same-day delivery. The logistics of delivery have never been more challenging.

To fulfill consumers growing expectations of speedy deliveries, products must be stored as close to customers as possible, something which is extremely difficult to accomplish for retailers with a large assortment of inventory. That’s where AVs can add value, moving goods around on demand, all without customers knowing what’s happening behind the scenes. Perhaps most importantly, an AV doesn’t waste time looking for a parking spot. A study co-authored by the University of Iowa’s Campbell found that an AV-runner delivery system can reduce the completion time of delivery to all customers by up to 77 percent.

Feuerbacher expects similar efficiencies in critical “urban middle-mile” deliveries – products shipped from warehouses to retailers or dark stores (stores that only offer online purchase pickup) but that only serve delivery to ensure the brick-and-mortar stores meet the expectations of consumers expecting to find what they want, when they want it and where they want it.

“It’s really difficult for retailers to store enough of all those different products to support any fluctuation in demand,” Feuerbacher said. “Unless you have a lot of inventory on hand and a lot of space to store it, you need a method to dynamically move products around to respond to consumer demand.”

AVs can do that. Ford Escape Hybrid SUVs equipped with the Argo Autonomy Platform are delivering groceries to Walmart customers in pilot programs in Austin and Miami. Such a system could be used to shuttle inventory from one store to another, deliver goods from an urban warehouse to nearby stores, haul returns from stores back to a distribution center or any combination of missions.

“The point is to have the vehicles constantly in motion,” Feuerbacher said, “constantly providing value to the retailer.”

What EV strategy or lesson should the government employ as it focuses on AVs?

By Kevin McAllister, Protocol

Good afternoon! As companies increasingly go electric, policymakers are setting their sights on autonomous vehicles. In today’s edition, we asked the experts to tell us what lessons from EVs we can apply to AV ambitions. Questions or comments? Send us a note at [email protected]

Alex Rodrigues

Co-founder and CEO at Embark Truck

One key policy parallel I see between electric and autonomous vehicles is the importance of offering pathways to opportunity for the existing workforce. When new technologies are introduced, there is often anxiety and confusion about how they will affect today’s workers.

The Biden administration’s approach to spurring domestic EV manufacturing and deployment through investments that create new job opportunities for auto workers, mechanics, electricians and other skilled trades provides a great model. Autonomous trucking offers the potential to create new career paths at all skill levels, including technician positions to maintain the many new AV components in autonomous trucks.

Those career paths will continue to grow as the AV industry grows. That growth can also be supported by legislation and regulations that give the industry long-term regulatory clarity and a pathway to scale nationwide. Policy measures recently implemented at the federal level have been effective in giving the EV industry and consumers the confidence it will take to foster mainstream EV adoption, thus expanding the EV market and creating more jobs within the EV industry.

We look forward to partnering with policymakers and industry stakeholders to make the United States a global leader in AV trucking development and spur local job creation in every corner of the country as we roll out this technology.

Ernestine Fu

Investor at Alsop Louie Partners and adjunct professor at Stanford University

New government policies or programs on AVs require several key considerations:

  • Public health and safety standards: First and foremost, the role of government is to set public health and safety standards, with input from all stakeholders on what standards are most appropriate.
  • Technology standards: Government should set technology standards that avoid too much duplication of effort, but still promote competition. Stakeholders need to be consulted to make sure the technology standards are neither too weak nor overly cumbersome for corporate players.
  • Critical infrastructure: Make investments in critical infrastructure that serve the public good and also make the aforementioned standards easier to achieve.
  • R&D sponsorship: Underlying these goals is the requirement of substantial R&D sponsorship, including long-term basic research, that enables advancements in said technologies and necessary infrastructure.
  • Public information programs: Government can nurture adoption by developing information campaigns to educate the public on the rapidly developing technology and investment options.

The United States has achieved several of these objectives with EVs. Rigorous safety testing was implemented, due in part to concerns about the massive batteries used in those platforms. Local, state and federal partners also helped roll out decentralized networks of charging stations, along with various rebates to encourage EV adoption. Despite these efforts, the large-scale rollout of charging networks for EVs lagged behind consumer needs, especially in rural areas. R&D activities also became largely centralized within private corporations. As such, for AVs, the government should preemptively and deliberately study how best to roll out centralized or decentralized networks for large-scale ensembles of AVs (the Internet of Cars) in a way that benefits both rural and urban America. The federal government should also increase R&D funding to the public sector and academia so that America remains dominant in AV innovation, rather than allowing progress to stall after preliminary AV deployments.

Nat Beuse

VP of Safety at Aurora

Like electric vehicles, self-driving vehicles are poised to be transformative – bringing safety, efficiency, accessibility, and sustainability benefits not just to passenger mobility, but also to the freight, logistics, and delivery industries. As autonomous vehicles follow the path of electric vehicles and transition from novel to normal, policymakers must prioritize both safety and innovation by continuing to collaborate with the industry to design and implement regulations and federal motor vehicle safety standards that support the safe development of self-driving technology.

We all have the same goal: to make our roads safer and our transportation systems more efficient. By ensuring regulations are technology- and business model-neutral, as well as by making clear distinctions between autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems, policymakers can facilitate productive competition and safe commercialization while maintaining high safety standards.

As policymakers take lessons from the electric vehicle revolution, the one that rises to the top is clear – safety and innovation aren’t mutually exclusive, in fact, they’re best when paired together.

Wiley Deck

VP of Government Affairs and Public Policy at Plus

To enable the broad and safe adoption of autonomous vehicles, a national vision and regulatory structure for autonomous vehicles, like electric vehicles, are critical. This is not the work of government alone — collaboration and information-sharing among industry partners, federal and state governments, academia and advocacy groups will be key, and some of that is already taking place.

Congress can facilitate this process by requiring the Department of Transportation to take affirmative action on the adoption of this technology through the legislative process. Ideally, this would require the appropriate government agencies (NHTSA and FMCSA), to work through a negotiated rule-making process, which would include all of the pertinent stakeholders to decide what works best for the nation as a whole and to allow for the seamless movement of autonomous vehicles across the country.

As one the first autonomous vehicles to be commercialized, autonomous trucks can be used to start the national framework process. The FMCSA already sets the national standards for the commercial vehicle driver’s license knowledge and skills testing in partnership with the Association of American Motor Vehicle Administrators; there is no reason they could not do the same with autonomous trucks. NHTSA can also utilize the same process to create a unified system to allow for the operation of autonomous passenger vehicles around the country.

Autonomous vehicles will make our roads safer, improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Adopting a uniform, national vision and regulatory structure will help drive faster adoption of this lifesaving technology.

Matthew Lipka

Head of Policy at Nuro

Electric AVs can have a big impact on sustainability — but it won’t happen automatically. Policymakers could play a key role in encouraging EV adoption by continuing to provide manufacturing and purchase incentives, and expanding the availability of charging infrastructure for fleet-operated AVs.

Nuro has always been dedicated to building battery-electric AVs. This was a contrarian choice when we launched in 2016, given the maturity and cost of battery technology and computing hardware, but it has become increasingly clear that the future is electric. Nuro is now onto our third-generation vehicle, and the lessons we’ve learned are helping us build the world’s first production-scale, zero-emission, autonomous delivery vehicle powered by renewable energy.

It’s critical that local delivery AVs like Nuro’s are zero-emission. Shopping and errands account for nearly 100 billion personal vehicle trips annually, and about 98% in gas-powered vehicles. An electric fleet of delivery AVs could be a great sustainable alternative to driving yourself to the store. Delivery AVs could ultimately help avoid 407 million tons of CO2 emissions from 2025 to 2035 — the equivalent of residential emissions from NYC, LA, Chicago and Houston over the last decade.

Current EV policy assumes that vehicles will be personally owned and primarily charged at home and work or during trips. Fleet-owned AVs could present new challenges in upfront cost, centralized charging locations and needed utility upgrades. Government programs that proactively address these issues can help AV manufacturers transition to electric vehicles.

Rob Grant

Senior vice president, Government Affairs and Social Impact at Cruise

At Cruise, we believe that all AVs must be EVs in order to compound the benefits of self-driving technology needed to combat climate change.

Because the transportation status quo is unacceptable. For one, it is too polluting –– with transportation emissions contributing disproportionately to climate change and adverse health outcomes, particularly in underserved communities. Governments at the state, local, federal and global levels have mobilized around this mission-critical electrification imperative –– creating policy and taking much-needed action to stem the tide of emissions and help save the planet.

This is the same approach that governments at all levels must take to save lives lost to traffic violence. The status quo is unacceptable: over 40,000 Americans die each year from motor vehicle accidents, a sadly long-accepted yet worsening trend. This mission, too, is urgent, and we have an opportunity to put AV technology to work to address it –– but only if government takes action to support the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles here in the United States.

In fact, we can work toward both these goals simultaneously. Cruise has an entirely zero-emission fleet, powered by 100% renewable energy. And, as a shared fleet service, these vehicles can expand the public’s access to cleaner, more sustainable transportation –– regardless of whether a household can afford to purchase an EV or can conveniently charge.
This technology is here. With government action that leverages innovation to redress the transportation status quo, we can save lives while helping save the planet.

Erik Swedberg

Executive vice president and managing director, Americas at Dassault Systèmes

For autonomous vehicle deployment, in the near term we will see a continuing deployment of progressively more complex and functional Advanced Driver Assistance Systems to protect us as we drive. But for full autonomous, we first must develop and put into law the standards for autonomous vehicle verification and validation. Several Society of Automotive Engineers committees are working on these standards, but the legislation and the testing methods still need to solidify. Without legislation and the maturity of all the sensors and AI, there is no basis for product liability defense in court in Western countries. It will take many years and depends on use cases that will be driven by individual countries.

Another consideration is cybersecurity. As we add more software to our vehicles and integrate them into smart cities and mobility applications, risks of hacking and “automotive takeovers” will exponentially increase. There are several evolving standards for automotive vehicle protection from hackers, but automotive designers are just beginning to focus on these issues and are a long way off from full implementation. The good news is that auto manufacturers may be able to pull a page from the playbook of the aerospace and defense industry, which currently uses model-based systems engineering development methodology to integrate software security in the design phase.

Autonomous vehicles are a game-changer for humanity, and the industry urgently needs clear benchmarks and certifications around operational safety and IT security to ensure this new frontier doesn’t remain the Wild West.

ATA Leader Chris Spear Doesn’t See Automation as Threat to Drivers

By Connor D. Wolf, Transport Topics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said he doesn’t view the ongoing advancement of autonomous trucking as a threat to drivers, since economic factors will ensure demand for drivers for years to come.

“I’m not threatened by it because of where our economy, where our country and where our industry is headed,” Spear said during a June 2 address at the 2022 Recruitment and Retention Conference, hosted by Conversion Interactive Agency, ATA and Transport Topics June 1-3. “It’s all about growth. Right now, one in 16 jobs in the United States is trucking related. The top job in 29 states is being a truck driver.”

Spear stressed, however, that discussion centered on automation is “thought-provoking.”

He noted that the trucking industry is at a pivotal moment when it comes to the technology, with a lot of key questions being asked. While he acknowledged some division over where automation in trucking is headed, he stressed that the technology has arrived. It’s undergoing innovation, testing and deployment, and he has seen it work.

“It’s not just a discussion point — I actually rode in a fully automated truck,” Spear said. “It went 60 miles on the interstate in Arizona. Hands never touched the wheel. You begin to appreciate the reality in a situation like that.”

He noted, however, that demand for trucking services — from many corners — will ensure that drivers’ services will be required for years to come.

“We’re moving 72.5% of domestic freight,” Spear said. “Long gone are the days when trucking and rail would duke it out. We’re now rail’s biggest customer.”

Spear said he has witnessed that transformation over the last 15 years, and noted that the current supply chain issues and bottlenecks demonstrate why it’s important for different modes to work together. But he also highlighted why embracing innovation is important.

“These are all trends that are happening,” Spear said. “It’s all about growth, supply and demand, but also the fact that consumers want things immediately. And in today’s world that doesn’t necessarily require a brick-and-mortar store. Just point and click and it’s at your doorstep. It used to be two days. Now it’s less than a day.”

Spear emphasized the added pressure these expectations place on the supply chain and trucking, in particular. ATA estimates the country is short about 81,000 truck drivers, and has said that figure could grow to 160,000 by 2030 if recruitment efforts are not expanded.

“Right now we’re moving more with fewer people and less equipment,” Spear said. “You’re going to have to add more people. You’re going to have to add more equipment. You’re going to have to make improvements in infrastructure. And you’re going to have to innovate. There’s room for both to coexist. People and automation can solve this problem collectively without being threats toward that future. So, there’s plenty of room.”

But it will take time, and change will come gradually, he said.

“You will see it occurring in localities and regions — it’s already happening. And the value proposition isn’t going to be based on displacing our existing workforce. Why would it, when you’re short 81,000 drivers already? That’s only going to continue to increase as we grow our economy and demand continues to rise.”

Spear urged the industry to search for ways that humans and automation can coexist. He pointed specifically to autonomous trucks being more suited for regional operations, whereas human drivers will be better suited for longhaul operations. He believes this kind of delineation could help ease and offset the high demand for drivers.

“I don’t look at this as a threat,” Spear said. “I look at this as how innovation could actually help alleviate some of the pressure that we’re feeling on the supply chain, and on the industry to meet our customers’ demands.”