The California State Senate has passed a bill called AB 316 that would require autonomous semi-trucks to have a trained operator for personal safety when operating on public roads within the state. The aim of this law is to strike a balance by delaying the introduction of fully autonomous trucks until lawmakers are convinced of the safety of this technology.
Supporters of the legislation argue that it prioritizes safety and addresses job security concerns in the freight industry. They consider the presence of human operators essential to ensure the well-being of cyclists, pedestrians, drivers and all road users.
But opponents of the bill argue that it hinders a technology that could save lives and harm California’s economic competitiveness in the industry. They point to neighboring states like Arizona and Texas that have introduced autonomous trucks and benefited from greater supply chain efficiency. They also highlight the impressive safety record of autonomous trucks, which have traveled millions of kilometers without causing a single fatality.
A key provision of the law requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to assess the potential impact of autonomous vehicle technology on public safety before issuing permits, despite opposition from the DMV. This assessment could potentially delay the deployment of fully autonomous trucks until 2030, allowing regulators to ensure maximum safety of the technology.
In recent months, companies like Waymo and Cruise received approvals to expand their driverless operations in San Francisco despite community concerns and safety objections.
While AB 316 aims to ensure safety and job security, its opponents argue that California could fall behind in the autonomous trucking industry. It remains to be seen whether Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign the bill.