Another Take On Autonomy
I will be totally upfront about this……. I am a car (and truck) guy. If there were any justice in the world, I would be as wealthy as King Midas and have an enormous garage full of cars and trucks of every shape and size. Jay Leno would be jealous. I would tinker with them during the day and then take a different one out on the town each night. But I am not. And I don’t.
Instead, I indulge my love of cars by driving and reading about cars through various automotive publications. To that end, as I was reading the latest issue of Car and Driver and I ran across an interesting article discussing some concerns about autonomous vehicles (“AV”). I get it, this article is from a car magazine that is marketed and sold to people who love cars so it could be a bit biased. Regardless, I found the article quite interesting.
Now, I am not the type of guy to bury my head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the obvious. I know autonomous cars and trucks are coming. I know they will probably be here sooner rather than later. I am just not sure the road is as smooth as it is being portrayed.
What I found interesting about the article is that it did not just discuss the “standard” concerns about AVs. Yes, we all know that there is currently no national standard or regulations to govern AVs and no real plan for the infrastructure to support them in mass. Instead, the article mentioned four things that I found interesting.
The first point the article made related to the grass roots opposition to AVs that is developing. For example, in Chandler, AZ (where Waymo is testing its fleet of self driving minivans) there have been almost two dozen attacks on self-driving cars. There is nothing to make you think that these are a concerted rebellion against AVs – just something of a general statement about AVs.
In addition, the article mentioned a couple of organization that have been created to protect the act of driving. The first is The Human Driving Association (“HDA”) which currently has 10,000 members. This organization has published a 12 point manifesto which mentions, among other things, that the organization is “Pro-Privacy.” In short, this means that HDA believes that all connected services should be voluntary regardless of the level of automation and that all AVs should be capable of operating independent of any communications network. In other words, nobody should be able to monitor your movements.
Another group was founded by Hagerty, one of the largest insurers of vintage and collectible cars (and famous as a sponsor of numerous classic car auctions). Hagerty launched “Safe Driving” an initiative dedicated to preserving the right to drive while embracing safety technology.
Both of these groups are concerned with potential threats to the loss of personal freedom and privacy inherent with AVs.
The second point the article discussed was the impact on workers, namely CDL drivers. The articles takes the position that fully autonomous vehicles will likely first arrive in the trucking industry. I do not necessarily agree with this assumption and believe there will always be a need for a driver to oversee the operation of an AV. I mean, who is going to tarp a load in Chicago in February?
Regardless of my beliefs, the article interviewed James Hoffa, Jr., President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents 1.4 million workers. While Mr. Hoffa recognizes that AVs are coming and that the union will have to adapt, he does not believe the move toward AVs is entirely safety related. Instead he believes it is related to a desire to save money by eliminating the human element. While Mr. Hoffa acknowledges that the new technology will likely create ancillary jobs he suggests that union workers displaced by the new technology be guaranteed new jobs arising from adoption of the technology. In other words, I think that carriers employing union workers will see quite a bit of pushback as they try to adopt to AVs. Accordingly, the cost savings many predict may not necessarily come to fruition.
The third point the article discussed is the susceptibility of AVs to hackers and rogue actors. The article referenced the findings of a group of researchers at Tencent Keen Security Lab in China. These researchers discovered a way to outwit the driver assistance systems in a Tesla by simply placing stickers in the roadway. By placing the stickers they were able to trick the driver assistance system in the car into making the car change lanes into oncoming traffic. I have to be honest, this frightens me. Just imagine a rogue actor manipulating the roadway with something as simple as stickers and making a CMV swerve into oncoming traffic.
In addition to rogue actors, another concern is vulnerability to hackers. I know that everyone has concerns about this and we are being told that this issue has been/is being resolved. I hope they are right. When I used to think of hackers I always thought of a kid living in basement hacking the Department of Defense (Anyone remember the movie War Games?). Well apparently, hacking has changed and today is really a business. Hackers are not trying to make a point about society. Instead, they are trying to make money. Lots of it. It seems that a team of hackers working toward the common goal of cracking the code of an autonomous CMV to hold the fleet hostage is a real possibility. Moreover, the more complex the code the more susceptible it is to hacking. The more lines of code that exist, the more vulnerable it is to being hacked.
So where do AVs fit into the equation. According to the article, a commercial airliner has approximately 15 million lines of code. A luxury car has around 100 million lines of code. An AV is estimated to have in excess of 300 million lines of code. Based on these numbers it seems that an AV could be the easiest to hack.
The final point the article made concerned the weathers impact on AVs. As you can imagine, weather and visibility play major roles on the cameras and sensors required to keep AVs on the road. Of course, suppliers are working on solutions to these problems and AI systems are coded to be able to interpret objects distorted by weather and to monitor themselves and take appropriate action. As a result we may see a scenario where, in bad weather, a CMV pulls itself over to the side of the road and parks until the weather clears or its monitors are able to function. Just think of it, you could see a line of unattended, unguarded vehicles full of freight parked on the side of the road just waiting for the weather to clear. I can’t think of anything that could possibly go wrong. Can you? Me either.
Brad Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers. Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.
800-333-DRIVE (3748) or www.interstatetrucker.com
Autonomous Trucks , Autonomy