Testing of autonomous self-driving semi-trucks is underway in San Antonio, Texas, where researchers from Texas A&M Transportation Institute, The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research, and 32 municipal and regional partners are developing technologies that will help reduce human error on U.S. roads and highways and improve safety for all motorists.
The Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership, the working name under which the various research organizations are gathered, is one of 10 groups selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop standards that will guide the development of automated truck technologies.
“I think 90 percent of all accidents are caused by human error and so really, robots don’t get sleepy or tired or drunk or anything like that,” Chris Mentzer of the Southwest Research Institute told San Antonio’s WOAI News Channel 4.
The autonomous trucks employ technologies to “see” and interpret surroundings and even communicate with other vehicles, thus making them able to drive without driver input. A simple touch of the steering wheel, however, puts control back in the driver’s hands.
According to Commercial Carrier Journal, the tests in Texas are being conducted in “a full and varied range of testing environments, from high-speed barrier-separated managed lanes to low-speed urban environments such as university campuses, medical districts and transit bus corridors. Test runs are being conducted in both closed-courses and real-world urban settings, using a pilot-learn-scale model that develops the “brains” of the autonomous truck through repetition.
Mr. Mentzer acknowledged the concerns many people express at the thought of automated vehicles that can drive at lengths without driver input. However, developers emphasize that the technologies at this stage will act more like a co-pilot to help the driver stay on course and avoid collisions.
“Some people are a little worried about it and it’s kind of scary in some ways but I think the ultimate goal behind all this is safety,” Mr. Mentzer told WOAI.