Re-Introducing the AUVSI Automated Freight Task Force

 

AUVSI’s catchphrase is “all things unmanned,” and under that umbrella falls automated vehicles, or AVs. This year we will be increasing our focus on leading in the AV space, with an emphasis on advocating for automated freight. In fact, we will be building on the important work started by Suzanne Murtha, AUVSI Board Member and AECOM Vice President, via the AUVSI Automated Freight Task Force.
 
The aspects of AV advocacy are many, but one area that needs leadership is connecting automated freight manufacturers with state infrastructure owners and operators, or IOOs. There is certainly work needed at the state and federal policy levels related to safely advancing automated freight deployment, but attention must be paid to the actual highways and roads on which these vehicles operate. Enter the AUVSI Automated Freight Task Force – one of our goals is to provide the space for these two entities to talk safety, best practices, and what is needed for responsible automated freight operation cross-country.
 
The Task Force held our first meeting of 2021 in January, with a focus on the Ohio-Pennsylvania-Kentucky region. Entities including DriveOhio, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Turnpike, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments took part, along with private companies including TuSimple, Locomation, Plus, Ease Logistics, and AECOM.
 
The group spent two hours talking about how the Ohio region is working to support automated freight deployment, and what private manufacturers and companies need from state governments to safely operate. The conversations were robust, productive, and highlighted areas where additional work is needed, such as how automated freight can and should interact with law enforcement, and the difficulties involved in safely operating around work zones.
 
AUVSI was proud to host this discussion as we continue to identify where our advocacy team can be most effective in pushing forward the safe deployment of automated freight. These two groups – state IOOs and truck manufacturers – do not currently have organized spaces to communicate, so AUVSI will continue to host these events across the United States. In fact, we are currently organizing a similar event focusing on the Texas region, and look forward to more productive conversations.
 
Our team will also be organizing conversations between law enforcement authorities and automated freight operators, as this is an area where much more strategic work is needed. We plan on complementing those discussions with an aggressive educational campaign directed towards state and federal legislators, along with the public. Automated freight presents a multitude of societal and economic benefits and is a more realistic application of automated vehicle technologies, at least in the near term. AUVSI looks forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of automated freight operations, as there is currently a dearth of leadership on this front. We are proud to take up this mantle and welcome any collaboration from interested groups or companies as we work to create a national framework for automated freight.

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