The recent fatal accident involving a Tesla in autopilot mode has claimed another victim: Missouri’s proposed pilot platooning program.
Despite having passed both chambers of Missouri’s Legislature by wide margins and having the support of the Missouri Trucking Association and some staffers at his Department of Transportation, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill that would have allowed platooning in the Show Me State.
“Automated driving technology has advanced significantly within the last several years; however, the long-term safety and reliability of this technology remains unproven,” Nixon wrote on July 8 in announcing his veto of HB 1733. “That fact was tragically highlighted with the recent fatality involving a self-driving passenger vehicle. The risk associated with automated vehicles are even greater considering the size of long-haul trucks and the catastrophic damage that could occur if the technology fails. Using Missouri as a testing ground for long-haul trucks to deploy this unproven technology is simply not a risk worth taking at this time.”
Chairman Glen Kolkmeyer of the Transportation Committee in Missouri’s House of Representatives, co-sponsored the bill that passed his chamber 107-42 and the Senate 32-0. The bill waived the 300-foot following distance for commercial truck connected by wireless technology and established a pilot program lasting up to six years.
Nixon’s decision countered the input from MDOT assistant resident engineer James Pflum, who previously told Transport Topics that he supported the proposed pilot program.
“We want people to look at Missouri and say ‘that’s an innovative state,’ “Pflum said. “We’ve opened up 200 miles of I-70 as a laboratory for innovation. We said to the world, ‘If you have an innovative idea, come to us. If we like it, we’ll try it.’ "