Congress Is Hearing From the Teamsters About Driverless Trucks

Alexis Georgeson/Tesla Motors via ZUMA

This is sort of fascinating:

In its race to embrace driverless vehicles, Washington has cleared away regulatory hurdles for auto companies and brushed aside consumer warnings about the risk of crashes and hacking….New Trump administration regulations don’t require industry to submit certain safety assessments, leaving it voluntary. And legislation — already approved in the House and expected to pass in the Senate — strips authority from states to set many of their own safety guidelines.

….Lobbying from the Teamsters succeeded in stripping commercial vehicles from the rapidly advancing congressional action. Automated commercial trucks would not get the exemptions to state and many federal rules as robot cars would in the legislation. The concession — heralded as a big victory by the Teamsters — was met with a shrug by many in the automation world. They don’t expect it to slow the arrival of fleets of self-driving trucks on the road.

I’m inclined to agree that this strategy won’t have much near-term success. The technology will either work or it won’t, and if it does then people are going to use it. Trying to artificially slow it down is a dead end.

At the same time, what the Teamsters see happening in a few years is something that everyone will see happening in a decade or two. So the fact that they’re bringing it to the attention of Congress now is a very positive development. More people in the political world need to understand how this is likely to play out, and what it means for their constituents. You can read more about it from me here. Or, if you want to hear me talk about it—something you do at your own risk—you can listen to my recent podcast with Carl Etnier here. (Search for the November 23 edition of “Relocalizing Vermont.”)