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Bill requiring human safety of drivers in self-driving trucks comes to Newsom

Governor Gavin Newsom is on hand. The California Senate on Monday passed a bill requiring human drivers behind the wheel of self-driving trucks on state highways for at least the next five years. The lawmaker says he is concerned about safety. The governor’s office says it is concerned about innovation.

It’s now up to Newsom to veto the bill or sign it. Everything indicates that a veto must be used. Go-Biz, the California governor’s business development office, wrote a letter to the bill’s sponsor, saying passage of the bill would hinder the state’s competitiveness, limit innovation in the chain supply and would undermine existing monitoring.

The bill, Assembly Bill 316, passed the Senate by a vote of 36 to 2. Essentially, it would require driverless trucks, weighing between 10,000 and 80,000 pounds, to have on board a human safety driver. The requirement would remain in effect for at least five years, but supporters say lawmakers could remove the requirement sooner if they are reasonably sure of vehicle safety.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). “There is a reason why local elected officials and public safety officials, local firefighters and police officers, and state highway patrol officers all support AB 316. They and we want a collaborative process and truly public between the Legislature, local officials and government. executive power to make these decisions that impact the safety of millions of California travelers and hundreds of thousands of jobs,” she said after Monday’s vote.

The two “no” votes came from Senators Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) and Steve Glazer (D-Orinda). Glazer said requiring human drivers in experimental robot trucks was like requiring people to use typewriters.

With the Teamsters trucking union a big supporter of the bill, opponents say the problem really is job loss. Supporters say that’s also a concern, but the key is making sure the massive tractor-trailers can travel safely on state highways.

The safety issue came to the fore after San Francisco police officers and the city’s fire chief complained in August that driverless taxis deployed by Cruise and Waymo were constantly obstructing emergency vehicles and first responders. . These companies requested and received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission on August 10 for a rapid expansion of their business operations in the city. The five members of the commission are appointed by Newsom.

One of the members, John Reynolds, was Cruise’s main attorney before joining the CPUC. He voted, which is legal under current state law, but said he saw no conflict of interest.

The Newsom administration has also been constantly criticized for the way the California Department of Motor Vehicles regulates the safety of driverless cars. It allows Tesla to test its driverless car technology – dubbed Full-Self Driving – on public roads, but claims that because drivers are asked to be careful, the cars are not truly driverless.

The DMV said it was investigating whether the company violated DMV rules that prohibit a company from marketing autonomous technology when it does not allow fully autonomous driving. The investigation has been going on for two and a half years.

Several lawmakers said during the debate that they don’t trust the DMV’s public safety oversight of robot vehicles.

Newsom, a self-described friend of Elon Musk who appears to be positioning himself to run for president if President Biden drops out, has much to wonder about whether his decision to prioritize autonomous vehicle innovation over safety public will come back to bite him.

Los Angeles Times

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