Let Autonomous Trucks Reduce Driver Shortage In United States, Says Obama Transportation Chief


A supply chain crisis crippling US ports has been described as a “powerful opportunity” to bring self-driving trucks to the country’s highways.

Thousands of waiting containers wait to be unloaded from freighters in Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York and Savannah, Georgia.

The ports are overwhelmed because there are not enough truck drivers to transport the freight.

Today, the man who laid the groundwork for regulating autonomous technology under Barack Obama’s administration says autonomous trucks are the answer.

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said autonomous vehicles could make quicker wins on backlogs hanging over ports and causing shortages of everything from Apple crisps to potatoes.

The United States has a record shortage of around 80,000 truck drivers, according to data from the American Trucking Associations, as reported by CNN last month.

Mr Foxx, outgoing CEO of ride-sharing company Lyft, said that “the easiest and fastest integration of autonomous vehicles” is for long-distance journeys on major roads which “are not situations of stop”.

“Trucks can run much, much longer using technology than they can with you or [me] drive, because you and I need to rest, ”said Mr. Foxx The National before a trip to the United Arab Emirates for Hypermotion, a conference on the future of mobility which is being held on the sidelines of Dubai Expo 2020 from Tuesday to Thursday.

He said the federal government had not been bold enough on autonomous transportation, instead leaving it to the 50 states to regulate and introduce driverless technology.

This decentralized approach has slowed progress, compared to countries like the United Arab Emirates, France and Germany, which are making national decisions and moving forward.

“The United States needs to work on their pipeline, so we can go much faster,” Foxx said. “The pace of transformation in the sector is changing so much faster than our ability to decide. “

On another crisis, climate change, Mr Foxx said the Joe Biden administration’s infrastructure package had the teeth to spur Americans’ transition to electric vehicles, which would be a critical change as transportation represents most of the American broadcasts.

The $ 1,000 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill provides $ 7.5 billion for billing network investments over a five-year period, with some earmarked for rural and low-income areas.

“If this infrastructure bill passes, which I think we will have charging networks across the country,” he said. “And that will calm the nerves of so many people who I think have range anxiety about converting to electric vehicles.”

Mr Foxx said he was concerned whether, in determining where to allocate resources, there might be an “algorithmic bias” that would undermine the goals of the Infrastructure Bill of providing EV infrastructure to Americans, regardless of their income level.

If the United States automates decision-making about where to locate charging stations, marginalized communities could be left behind due to insufficient or biased data, slowing electrification progress.

Life after the pandemic is a chance for cities to change, said Mr. Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, from 2009 to 2013.

“We are going to go back to basic modes of transport, like cycling and walking, as the main means of transport,” he said, calling it an opportunity to reduce traffic and give people a healthier alternative. to the car. .

He expects more US cities to replace on-street parking with bike lanes.

And while Mr Foxx previously predicted driverless passenger cars by 2021, he now says he believes they will continue to be phased in over the next decade. Already, assisted driving and autonomous parallel parking are standard on many makes and models.

The transition is slow, he said, but it is happening.

Updated: November 1, 2021, 12:29


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