Pronto AI seeks hours-of-service exemption for Copilot drivers

Pronto AI is asking that drivers in trucks using its driver-assist technology be exempt from federal work rules to help encourage investment in autonomous trucks and speed up adoption of new safety systems.

Specifically, the autonomous trucking startup is seeking a renewable five-year exemption that would allow drivers to drive up to 13 hours within a 15-consecutive hour driving window after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty, according to a request sent earlier this month to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Current regulations allow a 14-consecutive hour driving window in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. The exemption would apply to drivers operating trucks equipped with Pronto AI’s Copilot advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and its “SmartDrive” Video Safety Program.

Comments on Pronto AI’s request are due 30 days after FMCSA’s notice is published in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for April 20.

“A driver operating under the exemption would be ‘hands on’ and in complete control of the vehicle at all times,” the company stated in explaining its Level 2 automation technology. The added level of automation reduces physical and mental stress for the driver, “thereby allowing a modest increase in certain HOS parameters,” the company asserted.

“Plus, these same technologies would provide additional levels of safety by reducing the risk of the driver becoming drowsy or distracted and assist the driver in maintaining safe and proper control of the vehicle. In concert, these technologies provide a level of safety that is equivalent to or greater than would result from operation without the requested exemption.”

Pronto AI, which was among FreightWaves’ 2020 FreightTech 100 winners, also noted that granting the HOS exemption would “provide a meaningful operational incentive for investment in these technologies, which will also help overcome some driver resistance to using ADAS and video-based onboard safety systems, especially driver-facing cameras.”

Opponents of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology have emphasized the potential for job loss resulting from the technology and decreased safety that will lead to more crashes. Responding to those assertions, Robbie Miller, Pronto AI’s CEO and Chief Safety Officer, recently told FreightWaves that the cost savings that come from carriers not having to hire drivers will ultimately increase the number of workers in trucking and other sectors of the economy.

Pronto AI’s Copilot technology, which FreightWaves test-drove last year, is part of a four-year study led by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to provide regulators with guidelines for integrating ADAS into current fleets. The research is funded by a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.