Sunday, October 1, 2023

California Senate Passes Bill Requiring Human Safety Operators in Autonomous Trucks

The self-driving truck industry suffered a setback as the California Senate passed a bill that would require a trained human safety operator to be present whenever an autonomous truck duty car operates on the public roads of the state. This effectively bans autonomous driverless trucks. The bill, known as AB 316, received 36 votes in favor and two against. However, it still needs to be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom before becoming law. Despite Governor Newsom’s reputation as friendly to the tech industry, he is expected to veto the bill.

Proponents of the project argue that having more control over the removal of safety drivers from autonomous trucks will protect California road users and ensure job security for truck drivers. They believe autonomous car companies are putting the interests of investors ahead of public safety. However, opponents of AB 316 argue that the bill defeats the purpose of driverless technology and prevents technological advances that could save lives. They point to the absence of deaths caused by autonomous trucks in more than two years of testing and millions of miles driven, highlighting the potential of driverless technology to improve road safety.

Currently, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) prohibits autonomous vehicles weighing more than 10,001 pounds. AB 316 seeks to block the DMV from issuing permits to self-driving transportation companies to remove the driver for testing or enforcement purposes. The bill requires the DMV to provide safety evidence to lawmakers. By January 1, 2029, or five years after testing begins (whichever comes later), the DMV must submit a report evaluating the performance of the autonomous technology, its impact on public safety and work in the truck transport sector. The report will include information on disconnections, accidents and a recommendation on the need for human safety operators in heavy driverless vehicles.

Although the bill’s passage will result in delays for autonomous transportation in California, its goal is to ensure that the technology is thoroughly tested and proven safe before removing the human driver. However, the DMV opposed AB 316, saying it would not increase safety and hinder the development of technology in California that could provide better road safety benefits. Because of this, California is unlikely to see fully autonomous trucks operating without a person in the front seat before 2030.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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