Self-driving trucks are now being tested on busy SWVA roadways


(WJHL) – Self-driving tractor-trailers are already being tested on Southwest Virginia roadways.

That news comes from Daimler Trucks as they are working to test SAE Level 4 intent technology.

Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics are concentrating the testing in the Blacksburg area on highways including Interstate 81.

We’re told this comes after months of testing and safety checks on a closed loop track.

A spokesperson for the company told our sister-station, WJHL, that there are at least two people in the truck at all times.

One person is a highly trained safety driver who has a CDL and is trained on vehicle dynamics and automated systems.

The other person in the tractor-trailer is an engineer who oversees the system.

Dean Clark is a Western Express Driver traveling through Virginia on I-81. He’s apprehensive to share the road with an automated truck.

“New technology is coming out. I understand it. There’s just certain situations where that automation isn’t going to help,” Clark said.

I-81 drivers shared those concerns.

“There’s too many variables that can happen, too many things out there that a computer wouldn’t be aware of in my opinion. I don’t even like the idea of idea of a car being able to drive itself, let alone a big rig,” Connie and Rocky Smith said.

A project spokesperson said making our roads safer is the top priority with these trucks.

The state agrees.

“We see this as a safety benefit. 80-90% of all traffic crashes are due to human error,” Catherine McGhee with the Virginia Secretary of Transportations Office said.

We’re told if you see a Daimler labeled truck on the roadway – drive normally. Do not tailgate. Treat it as a semi-truck.

A press release issued by Daimler Trucks earlier this week read in part, “The deployment on public roads takes place after months of extensive testing and safety validation on a closed loop track. As part of the comprehensive safety process by Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics, both test track and on-road validation play an integral role in establishing the essential building blocks for successfully advancing automated technology.”


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