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USDOT releases latest version of guidance for automated vehicles

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Thursday released new federal guidance for automated vehicles, advancing its commitment to supporting the safe integration of automation into the broad multimodal surface transportation system.

The guidance “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0” (AV 3.0) builds upon — but does not replace — voluntary guidance provided in “Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety.”

“The safe integration of automated vehicle technology into our transportation system will increase productivity, facilitate freight movement and create new types of jobs,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

AV 3.0 incorporates the results of extensive stakeholder engagement to provide updated voluntary guidance and policy considerations for a range of industry sectors, including manufacturers and technology developers, infrastructure owners and operators, commercial motor carriers, bus transit, and State and local governments, Chao said.

AV 3.0 supports the safe development of automated vehicle technologies by:

  • Providing new multi-modal safety guidance
  • Reducing policy uncertainty and clarifying roles
  • Outlining a process for working with USDOT as technology evolves

Specifically, the new AV 3.0 guidance provides several updates to the department’s initiatives relating to automated vehicles, by:

  • Stating that the department will interpret and, consistent with all applicable notice and comment requirements, adapt the definitions of “driver” or “operator” as appropriate to recognize that such terms do not refer exclusively to a human, but may include an automated system.
  • Identifying and supporting the development of automation-related voluntary standards developed through organizations and associations, which can be an effective non-regulatory means to advance the integration of automation technologies.
  • Affirming that the Department is continuing its work to preserve the ability for transportation safety applications to function in the 5.9 GHz spectrum.

AV 3.0 also announces and discusses several upcoming rulemakings and other actions being taken in the near future by the department’s operating administrations, including:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will request public comment on a proposal to streamline and modernize the procedures it will follow when processing and deciding exemption petitions.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will initiate an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address automated vehicles, particularly to identify regulatory gaps, including in the areas of inspection, repair, and maintenance for ADS.
  • The Federal Highway Administration announces plans to update the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), taking into consideration new connected and automated vehicle technologies.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is initiating research to develop and demonstrate a concept of operations, including system requirements, for the use of automated and connected vehicles to improve safety of highway-rail crossings.
  • The Maritime Administration (MARAD) and FMCSA are evaluating the regulatory and economic feasibility of using automated truck queueing as a technology solution to truck staging, access, and parking issues at ports.
  • The Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) is researching the ability to enable the digital transmission of information to first responders before they arrive at an incident that involves hazardous materials.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has published a five-year research plan on automating bus transit.

The draft Guidance will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment. More information on the Department’s work on automated vehicle systems can be found at www.transportation.gov/av.

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Minnesota House backs hands-free cellphone rule for driving

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Assuming the bill becomes law, Minnesota would become one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia that require drivers to use hands-free devices while phoning. (FOTOSEARCH)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota motorists would be required to use hands-free devices when talking on the phone while driving under a bill that passed the state House on Monday night, after sponsors said the measure will cut down on distracted driving and save lives.

The House approved the bill 106-21 with bipartisan support, though a few critics said it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include tougher penalties for texting while driving, which is already illegal in Minnesota.

“There’s clear evidence from other states that these types of laws save lives,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said at a news conference earlier in the day. “We’ve heard so many heart-wrenching stories from Minnesotans about family members they’ve lost because people are on their smartphones instead of focusing on the road.”

A similar bill working its way through the Senate exempts the manual use of GPS navigation systems. The House bill would limit GPS use while moving to one-touch, voice-activated apps such as Google Maps. The bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Frank Hornstein, said he’s confident the differences will get worked out in conference committee, adding that Gov. Tim Walz has indicated that will sign the bill.

Drivers would not need vehicles with built-in Bluetooth wireless systems, Hornstein said. For older cars, he said, hands-free mounts that comply are available online for as little as $9.

The Department of Public Safety says that at least 27 of Minnesota’s approximately 380 traffic deaths last year were related to distractions of all kinds. Experts testified during committee hearings that cellphone use is the fastest-growing distraction, causing a rising number of deaths and injuries.

Assuming the bill becomes law, Minnesota would become one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia that require drivers to use hands-free devices while phoning. A separate bill to toughen the state’s existing penalties for texting while driving is working its way through the committee process in the Senate. Hornstein said that bill may get heard in the House later.

Hornstein, a Minneapolis Democrat who chairs the House transportation committee, acknowledged that hands-free does not make phoning while driving completely distraction-free. But he said it would be a “major step forward.”

He sponsored a similar hands-free bill last year, but Hortman said Republican leaders who controlled the House back then would not allow a floor vote because it didn’t have enough GOP support. Democrats won control of the House with the November elections and Hortman became speaker in January.

Karin Ilg, of New Prague, recalled to reporters how her husband, Phil Ilg, was killed when he was struck on his bicycle from behind by a 16-year-old driver who was focused more on her phone than on the road. Ilg said she has been cutting up his bike and handing out small pieces — like one that she held up — to every 16-year-old she can “as a reminder not to text and drive. … The time is now for us to get this going and to have this as law.”

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Canada’s Lion Electric Co. introduces all-electric Class 8 urban truck

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The Lion Class 8 vehicle has a range of up to 250 miles on a single charge and boasts “zero emissions” as well as “no noise pollution.” (Photo: Lion)

MARIBEL, Quebec — Canada’s Lion Electric Co. March 11 presented its all-electric Class 8 urban truck, the Lion8, which will be delivered this fall.

The vehicle has a range of up to 250 miles on a single charge and boasts “zero emissions” as well as “no noise pollution.”

Lion also says the truck has an 80 percent energy cost reduction and a 60 percent reduction in operational costs.

Another cost-saving attribute, says the company, is “oil-free operation,” with few moving parts and brakes that last longer because of a regenerative braking system.

It’s also built to withstand Canadian winters and punishing road conditions.

According to Lion, the company has already taken orders for the truck from committed buyers.

Assisting in unveiling the new truck was Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a Kansas City Chiefs football player and Lion “ambassador.”

Lion is a manufacturer of zero emission vehicles, including all-electric school buses, paratransit minibuses and urban transportation and commercial trucks.

It’s first vehicle will be delivered to the Société des Alcools du Quebec later this year.

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Diesel Laptops launches virtual diesel technician program

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Clients that utilize this program have full, unlimited access to Diesel Laptops’ certified, in-house diesel technicians who are available via phone and live chat and can both remote access the client’s diagnostic tools, and video stream through the end user’s mobile device. (Courtesy: DIESEL LAPTOPS)

GILBERT, S.C. — Diesel Laptops, a distributor of commercial truck diesel diagnostic software, hardware and services, has launched a Virtual Diesel Technician Program.

This program is a first in the commercial truck and off highway industry and is a real solution to the current diesel technician shortage that exists, according to according to Tyler Robertson, CEO of Diesel Laptops.

Clients that utilize this program have full, unlimited access to Diesel Laptops’ certified, in-house diesel technicians who are available via phone and live chat and can both remote access the client’s diagnostic tools, and video stream through the end user’s mobile device.

The program also grants clients access to the wide array of repair information that Diesel Laptops has created.

This repair information includes VIN decoders, labor time guides, repair information on over 70,000 diagnostic fault codes, wiring diagrams, component locators, torque specifications, parts cross referencing, step-by-step repair information, and much more Robertson said.

These applications are provided through traditional desktop applications, along with websites and mobile applications.

“We all know that it is difficult to find qualified technicians,” Robertson said. “We also know it’s difficult for most shops to acquire the resources they need to properly diagnose and repair commercial trucks. The Virtual Diesel Technician Program gives repair shops access to both live, real world diesel technicians and repair information.”

Diesel Laptops is staffed with certified diesel technicians from a variety of industries, and currently handles more than 50,000 customer repair, software, and diagnostic questions every year, Robertson said.

“These are all documented and organized in the company’s database, allowing Diesel Laptops to build the world’s largest database of solutions for known symptoms and diagnostic codes,” he said.

To learn more about the Virtual Diesel Technician Program, including watching an explainer video, visit www.DieselLaptops.com

Diesel Laptops, founded in 2014, provides specialized diesel diagnostic equipment for the commercial truck, construction, automobile, agriculture, marine, and off-highway markets. Diesel Laptops is the industry leader in diesel diagnostic tools.

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