In a blow to the autonomous trucking industry, the California Senate passed a bill Monday that requires a trained human safety operator to be present any time a self-driving, heavy-duty vehicle operates on public roads in the state. In effect, the driverless truck legislation bans driverless AV trucks from operating on California highways.
From an article in Tech Crunch by Rebecca Bellan.
AB 316, which passed the senate floor with 36 votes in favor and two against, still needs to be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom before it becomes law. Newsom has a reputation for being friendly to the tech industry, and is expected to veto AB 316. In August, one of the governor’s senior advisers wrote a letter to Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, the bill’s author, opposing the legislation. The letter said such restrictions on autonomous trucking would not only undermine existing regulations, but could also limit supply chain innovation and effectiveness and hamper California’s economic competitiveness.
Advocates of the bill, first introduced in January, argue that having more control over the removal of safety drivers from autonomous trucks would protect California road users and ensure job security for truck drivers.
“AV companies have lost billions of dollars in the self-driving vehicle space over the last few years and are now trying to appease their investors by imposing unsafe, inadequate products on the public,” said Jason Rabinowitz, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7, in a statement. “These corporate elites have no regard whatsoever for the safety or prosperity of the communities they will put in harm’s way. Gov. Newsom needs to do right by Californians — not these companies — immediately.”
AV companies and industry representatives say the bill would not only defeat the purpose of driverless technology, but it would also hinder the advancement of technology that can save lives. Opponents of AB 316 point to the 5,788 truck crash fatalities that occurred in 2021, a 47% increase over 10 years. They compare that statistic to the zero fatalities caused by AV trucks in over two years of reporting and tens of millions of miles driven on public roads.
Of course, almost all of those miles driven had a human safety operator behind the wheel.
For the complete article on driverless truck legislation CLICK HERE.
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