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Will US regulations that restrict self-driving trucks be implemented?

Self-driving trucks are advancing quickly toward reality, and both the economic and the environmental arguments in their favor are quite strong. Major tech-industry players, notably Google and Uber, are making rapid progress. The consensus (as of 6/2017) on this currently open Metaculus question predicts that the first driverless cross-USA cargo truck run will occur in December 2018, a time frame better measured in months than in years.

A recent report commissioned by Intel crisply predicts that autonomous driving (by both cars and trucks) will contribute $7 trillion to the economy, but it devolves to vague and euphemistic palliatives when the future prospects for truckers are discussed. For example, the report notes that autonomous vehicles — in displacing human drivers — will, "create opportunities for transportation companies to utilize the `freed' time of drivers to evolve and enhance their role and impact to the organization."

The Trump administration was voted into office on the strength of support from a demographic that would experience proportionally large job losses if fully autonomous self-driving trucks become a reality. There may, therefore, be grass-roots pressure for legislation that keeps humans in the driver's seats. On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly spoken (and acted) in favor of deregulation generally.

By January 2020, will US Federal regulations be implemented that restrict the operation of trucks without a human operator on board?

For positive resolution, regulations (or laws) must be adopted at the federal (rather than state) level that significantly curtail, delay, or prohibit the adoption of autonomous trucking technologies, arguably for reasons that go beyond pure safety considerations. Evidence to this effect would include citing employment in the text or announcement of the regulations, restrictions that appear to have no viable basis in safety considerations, statements by unions or others to the effect that jobs or workers rights are a significant consideration, etc.


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