In early October, now-departed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Ray Martinez announced the agency would begin a two-year project to educate the trucking industry on the safety benefits of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and monitor their adoption.

Appearing at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition in San Diego, Martinez said that FMCSA believes in “active collaboration” with trucking associations, motor carriers, drivers and owner-operators. “We all own safety,” he said. “I can’t do it alone, and you can’t do it alone.”

The ADAS project will be coordinated through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office but will rely heavily on the expertise and efforts of ATA, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), and ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC). Together they will develop outreach and educational materials for use with fleets and commercial motor vehicle operators who may not be aware of the advantages offered by ADAS technologies.

ADAS are on-board technologies that tie cameras or radar to lane-departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and the like. Common on today’s passenger cars, ADAS are offered by major truck manufacturers and several after-market truck technology companies. Per FMCSA, the goal of the ADAS project is to move beyond proprietary safety claims and build an industry consensus that technology can help reduce highway crashes, injuries and fatalities.

A key to understanding ADAS are the words “driver assistance.” Vehicle automation is often discussed in terms of “levels” of automation. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has set six such levels — Level 0 (no automation) to Level 5 (fully autonomous vehicles). Each describes what types of functions are automated at each level and how involved the operator must be in actually “driving” the vehicle. ADAS begins at Level 1, where the technologies “assist” the driver but the operator remains responsible for steering, normal braking and scanning the full highway environment. The ADAS technologies assist the driver by using cameras or radar to augment the driver’s awareness of the highway environment and, subject to driver intervention, trigger certain emergency actions.

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that 94% of all highway crashes are caused by human error, so if technology can reduce those errors, it will improve safety. As acknowledged by FMCSA, care must be taken that drivers do not become over-reliant on technology. That’s where education and training come in, and where FMCSA is looking for assistance from its trucking industry partners. People and machines have worked together since the dawn of the steam engine. With ADAS, FMCSA hopes to blend the best of technology with the professionalism of today’s truck drivers.

In the meantime, NHTSA is asking for public comments about a series of draft research test procedures developed by the agency to assess the performance of certain types of ADAS available. Read the Federal Register notice. You have until Jan 21, 2020 to comment.