WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is seeking comments on a new study involving automated and advanced driving assistance systems in commercial vehicles.
Characterized as a “driving simulator study,” the series of questionnaires will evaluate how commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers engage in vehicles equipped with SAE International Level 2 (L2) advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and Level 3 (L3) automated driving systems (ADS), according to the FMCSA.
Approximately 100 CMV drivers will participate in the study, which will examine the effect of non-driving secondary task engagement, transfer of control and training on driver behavior in CMVs equipped with ADAS and ADS.
“Higher levels of ADAS and lower levels of ADS present an environment that is ripe for overreliance,” according to the FMCSA. “An L2 vehicle offers longitudinal and lateral support to the driver; however, the driver is still responsible for driving at all times. An L2 vehicle is an example of higher levels of ADAS.”
At this level, engaging in non-driving secondary tasks can be highly detrimental to driving performance as the driver may not recognize and respond to hazards timely or appropriately, the FMCSA noted.
In an L3 vehicle, the role of distraction is blurred. L3 is the lowest level considered to be ADS.
“The driver takes on a more supervisory role and is in full control of the vehicle in a limited number of situations,” according to the FMCSA. “When an L3 vehicle alerts the driver that a takeover is required, the driver needs to have situational awareness to resume full control of the vehicle. Engagement in non-driving secondary tasks may prevent the driver from maintaining situational awareness of the driving environment. A recently completed study by FMCSA on research involving ADSs in CMVs found a lack of research related to ADS-equipped CMVs.”
To date, most commercial ADS systems on U.S. roadways are in passenger vehicles, and CMV ADSs have only recently begun being implemented in real-world operations.
Therefore, FMCSA officials noted, the agency needs more data on ADS-equipped CMVs to understand driver behavior and policy implications.
“The purpose for obtaining data in this study is to evaluate driver readiness to assume control in SAE L2 ADAS and L3 ADS-equipped CMVs and develop and test a CMV driver distraction training program designed to improve driver readiness,” according to the FMCSA. “The collected survey data will support the simulator experiment data.”
From September through November 2022, the FMCSA opened comments on the Federal Register on the issue of automated and advanced driving systems.
A total of 93 comments were received from the public.
These comments revolved around nine issues: General safety concerns with advaced driving systems; concern for job loss due to ADS-equipped CMVs; concerns related to the operation of ADS within specific operational design domains; concerns with specific ADS and/or ADAs; the failure of ADS sensors; the security of ADS-equipped CMVs; driver inattention/distraction when operating an ADS; data collection efforts; and support for the study.
General Safety Concerns With ADS-Equipped CMVS
A total of 50% of the comments received expressed general safety concerns related to ADS-equipped CMVs.
“FMCSA is actively engaged in many research and administrative activities to help improve the safety of CMV drivers and the general public, including research on ADS,” the FMCSA noted. “There are many research questions that need to be answered before ADS-equipped CMVs are deployed at scale.”
Some of these research questions are focused on the ADS technology itself to ensure that the ADS technology functions as intended and incorporates the appropriate redundant failsafe systems.
However, other research questions are focused on the human factors related to how individuals within the CMV industry will interact with ADS-equipped CMVs. Crashes involving ADAS illustrate why research focused on human factors is critical prior to full-scale deployment of ADS. Many of the incidents involve a mismatch between driver expectations of the technology and the driver’s true role and responsibility to monitor vehicle features.
This study is focused on L2 and L3-equipped CMVs. The systems included in this study would require a driver inside the vehicle who is ready to resume control of the vehicle when needed or requested (e.g., during icy conditions). Results from this study will be used to develop and evaluate a training program designed to improve drivers’ understanding and expectation of ADS. This training program will also attempt to improve drivers’ attention maintenance and hazard anticipation while operating L2 and L3 vehicles.
Although FMCSA believes this is a critical research study to understand how driver inattention may affect performance of L2 and L3 CMVs, it is only one research study of many that are needed to ensure the safety of drivers on the roadways.
Concerns for Loss of Jobs Due to ADS-Equipped CMVS
Ten comments from the public focused on the potential loss of jobs as a result of ADS-equipped CMVs.
“The trucking industry employs millions of individuals in the U.S. who are vital to the U.S. economy,” according to the FMCSA. “Additionally, there are millions of other individuals who work in roles that support the transportation industry (e.g., gas stations, truck stops, maintenance facilities, etc.). Better pay for drivers, effective training, safe equipment, and improved quality of life for drivers are important factors for retaining safe drivers within the industry. ADAS and ADS offer possible solutions that help drivers maintain a better quality of life. For example, they may offer improved health through crash reduction and allow more home time through more regional operations for drivers who so desire.”
As mentioned above, this study is focused on L2 and L3 ADS-equipped CMVs. Both systems under investigation in this study would require a driver to be in the truck at all times and ready to resume control of the vehicle when requested. Thus, the technologies investigated in this study would not result in driver job loss.
Notices Concerns for ADS in Specific Operational Domains
Seven comments provided by the public focused on concerns related to ADS-equipped CMVs operating outside of their intended operational design domain. Each ADS is designed to operate within specific conditions. These conditions provide parameters for the safe operation of ADS on the road.
Before widespread deployment of ADS, more development, testing, and verification of ADS-equipped CMVs is needed to understand safe parameters and before they can operate in all conditions or anticipate and respond to all possible infrequent events. As mentioned above, the safety technologies being investigated require a driver inside the vehicle at all times who could assume control of the CMV if conditions dictate. Drivers operating an L2 or L3-equipped CMV must be ready to assume control in these situations.
These situations demonstrate why it is important to research driver inattention and vigilance of the driver when operating L2 and L3 vehicles.
This research will provide information to ensure drivers are capable and safe to assume control of the CMV when needed through the development and evaluation of a training program to educate drivers on ADS capabilities and highlight the importance of maintaining attention while operating L2 and L3 vehicles.
Concerns With Specific ADAS/ADS
Six comments expressed concerns related to a specific advanced driver assistance feature or a particular ADS. These comments illustrate how additional research and development are needed for many of the features that will support ADS in CMVs.
Although the technology to support ADS (i.e., automatic emergency braking) has improved, there are still areas in need of improvement prior to the deployment of ADS-equipped CMVs.
One of the objectives of this study is to better understand the effect of driver inattention while operating a CMV equipped with these support technologies. Ensuring drivers of L2 vehicles maintain attention to the road is important so that the drivers can anticipate hazards and potential scenarios where the L2 features may not operate as intended. Similarly, research to study inattention while operating an L3 vehicle is needed to determine what training and education will help drivers prepare to resume control when requested.
This research, conducted in a simulator, will help the industry better understand how drivers of L2 and L3 vehicles can be prepared to take over control when necessary to ensure the safe operation of the CMV and the safety of the general public.
Concerns Related to Sensor Failure
Twelve comments primarily discussed concerns related to the failure of ADS sensors. Drivers’ concerns related to the importance of properly maintained and functioning sensors are valid. Sensors do fail and/or become dirty if covered in debris, making them inoperable. It is critical for ADS to have redundant sensors or a backup alternative sensor system in case of failure.
Research on the functionality of the technologies and sensors is ongoing. However, human factors-focused research is also necessary to ensure the safety of L2 and L3 vehicles. The technologies researched in this study require a driver to be in the vehicle and ready to take over control when needed or alerted. This study will examine how driver inattention affects a driver’s ability to successfully respond to or anticipate hazards or scenarios that may require human control of the vehicle. This research is critical to help in-vehicle drivers be prepared when a sensor does fail or if the technology does not anticipate a hazard appropriately.
Concerns Related to the Security of ADS
Two comments focused on securing ADS against threats. The security of ADS-equipped CMVs is of incredible importance.
“Research and efforts related to the security of the vehicles is needed,” the FMCSA noted. “However, this is a separate area of research and development and should not detract from the importance of human-factors research. As mentioned above, the purpose of this study is to ensure in-vehicle drivers are capable and ready to respond to unexpected hazards, scenarios, and requests to take over control of the vehicle when needed.”
Concerns That Inattention/Distraction Will Increase With ADAS and ADS
Five comments discussed concerns related to potential increases in driver distraction, inattention and reduced vigilance with the use of crash mitigation technologies.
“There is a need for research focused on driver inattention while operating CMVs equipped with ADAS and ADS,” according to the FMCSA. “More data are needed to understand the prevalence of inattention when using, and drivers’ overreliance on, crash mitigation technologies. This study is designed to gather data on these concerns in a safe environment without putting the CMV driver and the general public at risk. Results from this study will be used to develop training materials and information that may reduce this risk.”
Concerns With the Data Collection Efforts
One comment focused on this study’s proposed data collection methodology.
“Although driver fatigue is an important area of research, this study is focused on driver distraction,” according to the FMCSA. “However, driver fatigue may be observed in the study and will be identified and documented via eye tracking technologies. Power analyses were performed to approximate the number of participants needed to find statistically significant results (if present). The sample included in this study was based on this power analysis with additional participants to account for attrition.”
The FMCSA noted that “the sample is a convenience sample, and there are no attempts to say the sample is representative of the U.S. CMV industry. Demographic information (e.g., gender, age, health, etc.) will be collected and may be used to help control for potential confounding or extraneous variables during the statistical analyses. Support for the Study Three comments provided support for the study and provided additional insights based on recent investigations or research.”
Additional comments expressed the importance of focusing research on higher levels of ADS (i.e., L4 or L5).
“Although FMCSA agrees much more research and data are needed on more advanced ADS, some original equipment manufacturers and developers of L2 and L3 vehicles are deploying vehicles with lower levels of driver assistance or automation,” the FMCSA noted. “For example, L2 CMVs are available for purchase now.”
The FMCSA concluded that research is needed to understand how inattention affects performance in vehicles with these levels of ADS and to ensure the safety of the CMV driver and the general public.
“FMCSA agrees that distinguishing between features of L2 and L3 vehicles is important,” according to the FMCSA. “This study focuses on both advanced driver assistance features (via L2 vehicles) and the lowest level of ADS (via L3 vehicles). Additional distinctions are provided in the supporting documentation, and FMCSA will ensure that distinctions between functionalities are included in the discussion of the results.”
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