California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday vetoed a bill that would have required a human safety operator to be present whenever a self-driving truck was traveling on the state’s public roads.
The autonomous trucking industry’s victory comes after the California Senate passed the bill in mid-September. The bill would have effectively banned driverless autonomous heavy-duty trucks from operating the way they were designed.
“Assembly Bill 316 is not necessary for the regulation and oversight of heavy-duty autonomous vehicle technology in California because existing law provides sufficient authority to create the appropriate regulatory framework,” wrote Newsom in his letter blocking the bill.
Despite being a battleground for robot taxi companies like Waymo and Cruise to develop and commercialize their technology, California has some of the strictest autonomous vehicle regulations in the country.
Companies must go through numerous rounds of permits in order to test and deploy in the state, according to rules set by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. To date, only light trucks are authorized on public roads.
The DMV is considering lifting its current ban on testing autonomous vehicles weighing more than 10,001 pounds in the state. The agency held a public workshop earlier this year on the topic, which prompted California lawmakers to introduce bill AB 316. The bill would have limited the DMV’s future power to regulate AVs, power that the agency has held since 2012.
Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry first introduced the bill in January. Supporters of the legislation, including the Teamsters union, argued that the state should have more control over removing safety drivers from self-driving trucks to protect California road users and ensure safety employment of truck drivers.
“I’m here today because Gavin Newsom has signaled his intention to turn his back on the safety of 39 million Californians and veto AB 316, not only endangering all California drivers, but also opening up big tech to eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs,” said Mike Di Bene, a member of Teamsters Local 70 in Oakland, in a press release.
AV companies, industry representatives and chambers of commerce argued that the bill would not only hinder technological progress that could save lives, but would also limit innovation in the supply chain and hinder California’s economic competitiveness.
In his letter, Newsom said he trusts the DMV to continually monitor the testing and operation of commercial vehicles on California’s roadways, suspending or revoking permits as necessary to protect the safety of the public. He also said he would be committed to encouraging career paths and training workers to equip them with the skills needed to engage in this emerging technology.
Newsom said he is directing the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to lead a process with stakeholders next year to review and develop recommendations to mitigate the potential impact of trucks audiovisuals on employment.
“Given my Administration’s long-standing commitment to addressing present and future challenges for labor and workers in California, and the existing regulatory framework that currently and sufficiently governs this particular technology, this bill is not not necessary at the moment. For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.