California Governor rejects bill requiring human drivers in autonomous trucks
The victory for the autonomous trucking industry comes after Assembly Bill 316 passed in mid-September with a majority in California’s legislature.
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed important state legislation requiring a human operator to be present at all times inside a self-driving truck. The bill would require autonomous heavy-duty robo-trucks weighing over 10,001 pounds to have human drivers, de facto preventing driverless trucks from running on California public roads. The victory for the autonomous trucking industry comes after Assembly Bill 316 passed in mid-September with a majority in California’s legislature.
Labour unions, including the Teamsters, which represent tens of thousands of truck industry workers, support the legislation. They called on Governor Newsom to sign the bill, claiming that heavy-duty AVs were unsafe and would lead to massive job losses. Newsom explained that the bill was ‘unnecessary for the regulation and oversight of heavy-duty autonomous vehicle (AV) technology in California, as existing laws provide sufficient authority to create the appropriate regulatory framework’. The AV industry claimed that the bill would not only slow down tech progress that could save lives but also limit supply chain innovation and ultimately hinder California’s economic competitiveness.
Why does it matter?
California already has some of the strictest AV regulations in the US. Unlike Arkansas or Texas, California, which is home to some of the most advanced AV tech companies, still bans autonomous trucks weighing more than 10,001 pounds. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had been recently eyeing a lighter regulation to remove that constraint, which provoked legislative action. The bill would also restrict the DMV’s future power to regulate AVs, a role that the state agency has had since 2012.
Governor Newsom’s veto supports the innovative self-driving trucking sector in the state of California, where several tech companies are developing self-driving trucks. It may have significant implications for the future of autonomous driving and the state’s economy. With self-driving trucks running on highways 24 hours a day, shipping costs would decrease, as would insurance expenses, by removing the risks associated with human driving. Autonomous trucks could also have a positive impact on the environment, as they have the potential to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. California could, therefore reduce its carbon footprint and meet its climate goals.
Theoretically, the governor’s veto could be overturned with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses, though this is unlikely as this hasn’t happened since 1979. While it is still unclear how autonomous trucking technology will be regulated in the future, Gov. Newsom’s decision could help shape its direction.