Newsom Vetoes Bill Requiring Human in Autonomous Trucks
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California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 22 vetoed a bill that for five years would have banned autonomous trucks from being tested on public roads in the state without drivers in the cab.
Earlier this month, the legislation, AB 316, was approved by the state Senate on a 36-2 vote after being approved in a 69-4 vote by the state Assembly in May.
“Assembly Bill 316 is unnecessary for the regulation and oversight of heavy-duty autonomous vehicle technology in California, as existing law provides sufficient authority to create the appropriate regulatory framework,” Newsom wrote in a Sept. 22 letter to members of the Assembly.
“In 2012, the California Legislature provided the Department of Motor Vehicles with the authority to regulate the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads in California,” Newsom wrote.
.@GavinNewsom betrayed all workers. He's made it very clear who he works for - not for the people but for Big Tech billionaires.
1.3 million Teamsters will NEVER forget this. https://t.co/LPm0apsO1e — Teamsters (@Teamsters) September 25, 2023
“As part of its oversight and regulatory responsibilities, [the Office of Motor Vehicles] consults with the California Highway Patrol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others with relevant expertise to determine the regulations necessary for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads.
“OMV continuously monitors the testing and operations of autonomous vehicles on California roads and has the authority to suspend or revoke permits as necessary to protect the public’s safety.”
The bill was backed by the Teamsters, who along with other supporters marched on the state Capitol last week demanding that Newsom sign the bill.
A two-thirds approval vote in each house is required to override the governor’s veto.
“While I am disappointed at the veto, I’m hopeful the governor’s message of openness to working with our sponsors and other stakeholders will result in meaningful next steps,” Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Cecilia Aguiar-Curry said in a statement to Transport Topics. “The public safety and jobs issues surrounding humanless trucking are significant, and we want to ensure all parties understand our intent and the language we used in AB 316. I look forward to engaging the administration on the governor’s offer. I will determine what course of action to take when we’ve been able to have that conversation.”
“We commend Gov. Newsom for vetoing AB 316,” Jeff Farrah, executive director for the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, said in a statement. “As a result, California’s safety experts can continue to evaluate autonomous vehicle technology and consider appropriate regulatory action.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the California DMV, California Highway Patrol, Labor and Workforce Development Agency and other state regulators that are evaluating the future of autonomous trucking technology in the state.”
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Farrah said a wide variety of California safety advocates, business organizations, logistics providers and businesses of all sizes had urged Newsom to veto AB 316. The bill would have thwarted California’s regulatory process and caused the state to fall further behind other states on autonomous trucking innovation, the association said.
American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear called the veto “an encouraging indication that the governor is actually willing to consider all sides and allow common sense to prevail.” In recent testimony before Congress, Spear argued that autonomous trucks will not displace drivers.
In a statement, Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said Newsom “doesn’t have the guts to face working people. He’d rather give our jobs away in the dead of night.”
The Teamsters have backed the bill because they said it would save truck driver jobs and make the state’s highways safer.
Teamsters union members hold signs urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign Assembly Bill 316 on Sept. 19. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via Associated Press)
The bill specifically calls for blocking development of Society of Automotive Engineers Levels 3, 4 and 5 autonomous trucks unless there is a driver in the cab of trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
It also requires the state’s DMV to submit a report to the relevant policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature that evaluate the performance of autonomous vehicle technology, including its impact on public safety and employment in the transportation sector. The deadline would be Jan. 1, 2029, or five years after commencement of testing, whichever occurs later, and upon appropriation by the Legislature.
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