California Senate approves ban on autonomous trucks

California’s State Senate this week passed a bill which, if signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, would require autonomous semi-trailer trucks to have a trained human safety operator whenever they operate on public roads within the state. The bill, known as AB (Assembly Bill) 316 passed with a vote of 36-2.

AB 316 doesn’t aim to permanently halt driverless trucking in California but instead seeks to strike a balance. It intends to delay the deployment of fully autonomous trucks until legislators are confident that the technology has reached a level of safety that justifies removing the human driver.

Proponents of AB 316 argue that the legislation prioritizes safety, protecting cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and all road users. Additionally, it addresses concerns about job security in the trucking industry by ensuring human operators remain a crucial part of the equation. (via FreightWaves)

On the other side, opponents contend that the bill stifles life-saving technology and could hinder California’s economic competitiveness in the industry. They point to neighboring states like Arizona and Texas, which have embraced autonomous trucks and reaped the benefits of improved supply chain efficiency. Furthermore, they highlight the impressive safety record of autonomous trucks, which have traveled tens of millions of miles without causing a fatality.

A significant provision of the bill requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), despite its opposition, to evaluate the potential impact of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology on public safety before issuing permits. This could potentially delay fully autonomous trucks until 2030, giving regulators time to ensure that the technology is as safe as possible.

In recent months, the California Public Utilities Commission approved permits for companies like Waymo and Cruise to expand their driverless operations in San Francisco, despite community concerns and safety objections.

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