Governor says bill is unnecessary and could harm innovation
California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required human drivers to be on board self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs and ensure public safety. Newsom said the bill was unnecessary and could stifle innovation and economic growth in the state.
The bill, AB 316, was introduced by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez and supported by the Teamsters union, which represents about 200,000 commercial truck drivers in California. The bill would have prohibited self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds from operating on public roads unless a human driver is present. The bill also would have imposed a moratorium on the testing and deployment of such trucks until January 1, 2033.
The proponents of the bill argued that self-driving trucks pose a threat to the safety of other road users and the environment, as well as the livelihoods of truck drivers who could be displaced by automation. They cited a study by the University of California, Berkeley, that estimated that self-driving trucks could eliminate up to 294,000 long-distance trucking jobs in the U.S. by 2030.
Newsom cites existing laws and regulations for self-driving vehicles
Newsom, however, vetoed the bill on Friday, saying that it was unnecessary and could undermine the oversight of expert regulators. He said that existing laws and regulations already address the issues raised by the bill and provide sufficient safeguards for the testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles in California.
Newsom said that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has the authority to adopt regulations for the safe operation of self-driving vehicles, in consultation with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). He said that the DMV has already issued permits to 69 companies to test self-driving vehicles with a safety driver and to six companies to test self-driving vehicles without a driver.
Newsom also said that the DMV is in the process of developing regulations for the deployment of self-driving vehicles for public use, which will include requirements for safety, cybersecurity, data privacy, insurance, and liability. He said that the DMV will also consider the potential impacts of self-driving vehicles on the workforce and the environment.
Industry groups welcome Newsom’s veto, unions express disappointment
Newsom’s veto was welcomed by industry groups that represent the developers and users of self-driving technologies, such as the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA), the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and the California Chamber of Commerce. They said that the bill would have hindered innovation and economic development in the state and locked in an unacceptable safety status quo.
They said that self-driving trucks have the potential to reduce traffic fatalities, emissions, and congestion, as well as to improve efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness for the trucking industry. They also said that self-driving trucks could create new jobs and opportunities for workers in areas such as maintenance, logistics, and customer service.
On the other hand, Newsom’s veto was met with disappointment and anger by the Teamsters union and other labor groups that supported the bill. They said that Newsom betrayed the workers who helped him survive the recall election and sided with the tech companies that are exploiting them. They said that they will continue to fight for the protection of truck drivers and the public from the dangers of self-driving trucks.