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Planning for Self-Driving Vehicles

Self-driving cars and trucks are showing up on streets and roads around the country. And the Iowa Department of Transportation is taking autonomous vehicles into account as part of its I-80 Planning Study (see pdf below).

In the first of two reports, Michelle O'Neill starts with the basics about the new technology.

The Iowa DOT says within 22 years, "Automated vehicles could make up anywhere from 20-85 percent of all traffic on I-80" (watch video below).  That's a very broad range, and planners admit they don't know when, or how quickly, self-driving cars and trucks will enter the market, much less dominate it. 

Credit submitted / Truckload Carriers Association
Truckload Carriers Association
David Heller, V.P. for Government Affairs, Truckload Carriers Association

David Heller is Vice President of Government Affairs for the Truck Carriers Association. He says automated driving systems are already available. And experts believe they'll save lives, reduce traffic congestion, and improve mobility for millions of people with disabilities.

Heller thought he'd retire before self-driving vehicles became part of the conversation in the trucking industry. And he's "only 45!"

Here's an example that's taken years to implement. This month, all truckers will be required to use Electronic Logging Devices, or ELDs, instead of logging their hours with pen and paper. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration estimates that in crashes involving large commercial trucks and buses, these automated devices will prevent an average of 26 deaths and 500 injuries per year.

Credit Michelle ONeill / WVIK News
Ray Hitchcock, Truck Driving Program Facilitator at Scott Community College, Bettendorf, IA

Ray Hitchcock, head of the Truck Driving Program at Scott Community College, works with truck companies who tell him what they need drivers to learn, such as electronic logging devices which became mandatory this week (Dec. 18th).

Company officials also advise Hitchcock about industry trends. But so far, other automated driving technologies haven't reached the Quad Cities. Local companies have not asked Hitchcock to change the program curriculum. He thinks eventually, drivers will be more like pilots, flipping a switch only on certain highways.

Automated vehicles fall into five levels (see graphic in slides above).  The first two require drivers to pay attention and have their hands on the wheel all the time. Level one is limited to a single function, such as blind spot detection or automated braking, to help maintain control and stop very quickly.

Level two vehicles feature partial automation, such as adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning which work together.

Drivers of level three vehicles are able to relinquish control only under limited circumstances. For example, only on highways and interstates when the weather is not bad.

The plan to improve I-80 in Iowa will also include infrastructure improvements. Automated components must be able to evaluate road conditions, and detect the exact locations of lane markings, railings, bridges, ramps, and other objects.

The second of O'Neill's two reports about autonomous vehicles will address concerns from unions about autonomous trucks, mainly semi-tractor-trailers.

IADOT PEL 80 AV TechMemo WithAppendices FINAL 20170629 by Michelle O'Neill on Scribd

Officially, Michelle's title is WVIK News Editor. She does everything there is to do in the newsroom and whatever may be needed around the radio station.
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