Friday, September 22, 2023

The self-driving truck industry has suffered a setback in California

The California Senate has passed a bill that says a trained human safety operator must be present when a heavy-duty autonomous vehicle is operating on the state’s public roads. This effectively bans autonomous driverless trucks. The bill, known as AB 316, received 36 votes in favor and two votes against. However, it still needs to be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom to become 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 that autonomous vehicle companies are putting the interests of investors ahead of public safety. However, opponents of AB 316 say the bill defeats the purpose of driverless technology and prevents technological advances that could save lives. They noted that there have been no fatalities 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 truck companies to hire a driver for testing or deployment purposes. The bill requires the DMV to provide evidence of safety to decision makers. By January 1, 2029, or five years after testing begins (whichever comes later), the DMV must submit a report evaluating the performance of the driverless technology, its impact on public safety and work in the trucking sector. The report will include information on disconnections, accidents and a recommendation on the need for human safety operators in heavy autonomous vehicles.

Although the bill’s passage will cause delays in the rollout of autonomous trucks in California, it aims to ensure that the technology is thoroughly tested and proven safe before removing the human driver. However, the DMV opposes AB 316, saying it will not increase safety and hinder the development of technology in California that could provide greater safety benefits on highways. 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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