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Emerging Technology

Driverless Trucks Get A Major Boost In California As The Autonomous Driving Industry Celebrates!

By TD NewsDesk

TD NewsDesk

Updated on Mon, Sep 25, 2023

Overall Rating
Imagine it’s a few years in the future and you’re about to place an order for headphones since your previous pair is freshly broken. You find yourself worrying about its delivery schedule though.

Surprisingly, you see it’s going to be delivered the next morning!

Woah! How? It’s because it’s being hauled by a self-driving truck!

Coming back to the present, while it might be a few years before self-driving trucks or driverless trucks are deployed and used in large numbers, the state of California just took a big step towards such a future, thanks to the Governor of the state, Gavin Newsom.

What did he do? Let’s explore:
 

What Did Governor Gavin Newsom Do?

 
  • On September 11, the California Senate passed a bill (Assembly Bill 316) banning heavy-duty, driverless vehicles operating in the state without the presence of a trained driver onboard.

  • The bill, which brought in regulations for autonomous vehicles hauling goods over 10,001 pounds and received major support from both houses of the state legislature, was then sent to the state’s governor to sign.

  • On September 22, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill.

  • While a veto by the governor can be overturned if both houses of the legislature provide two-thirds majority (each) in favor of passing the bill, it’s rare and hasn’t happened in the state since 1979.

  • This move comes as a relief to companies developing autonomous trucks, who are looking to test and deploy their vehicles across the country, especially considering Southern California’s bustling seaports.
 

What Did Newsom Say About The Bill?

 
  • In a letter dated September 22 and addressed to the Members of the California State Assembly, Governor Gavin Newsom wrote, “I am returning Assembly Bill 316 without my signature. Among its provisions, this bill would ban driverless testing and operations of heavy-duty autonomous vehicles.

  • [contd.] “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.”

  • He concluded with, “Considering the longstanding commitment of my Administration to addressing the present and future challenges for work and workers in California, and the existing regulatory framework that presently and sufficiently governs this particular technology, this bill is not needed at this time. For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.”

   

What Is The Current Scenario Of Self-Driving Trucks?

 
  • It’s no secret that the US is looking to get ahead of other countries in the tech space and one of their biggest rivals is China. Speaking of which, American autonomous trucking company TuSimple recently completed a range of driverless truck test drives on public roads in China, where it also has an office.

  • In fact, the company was one of the first ones to get a fully driverless test license in China.

  • Interestingly, TuSimple has also run such tests in Arizona, USA, way back in December 2021.

  • At present, states like Texas, Arkansas and many others allow the testing and operation of self-driving trucks.

  • California could be one to join the ranks soon, that is if it gets past the hurdles it faces, which other than legal also include those from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters!

 

What Are The Concerns Surrounding This Move?

 
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union in the United States and Canada, along with other labor unions have been vocal in requesting the governor’s support on the bill, saying autonomous trucks are unsafe, especially seeing as some of them weigh over 80,000 pounds.

  • Furthermore, the unions believe allowing such vehicles would lead to job losses in the trucking industry.

  • Governor Newsom conveyed that any regulation framed would be transparent and considerate of expert inputs. Additionally, he directed the Labor & Workforce Development Agency to provide mitigation recommendations for any resultant job losses.


What do you think of the Governor’s move to support autonomous technologies? Do you think autonomous trucks should be deployed with or without the requirement of trained drivers?

Let us know in the comments below!

First published on Mon, Sep 25, 2023

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Tags:

Emerging Technology Autonomous Vehicles AV Self-driving Driverless Trucks California Law

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