- California lawmakers advanced a bill last week that would prohibit driverless autonomous vehicles on public roads for vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more.
- If passed, the bill would require human operators onboard for testing AVs as well as deliveries until the Legislature and governor gave further approval. The measure would block the Department of Motor Vehicles from issuing a permit for operations for at least a year without a safety operator physically present in the vehicle.
- While trucks weighing 10,001 pounds or more aren’t currently allowed to operate in the Golden State autonomously, the DMV held a workshop in January to discuss what allowing heavy-duty AVs could entail.
Local Teamsters unions and drivers have opposed the DMV’s regulatory exploration, saying the department is moving forward with an issue that legislators should decide on.
Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Laura Friedman introduced the bill a day before the DMV workshop, with Teamsters local unions saying it would protect lives and jobs.
“When this industry proves to me, my colleagues, and our constituents that human-less trucking, and driverless school buses, are safer than our model in California, they will have the support to proceed,” Aguiar-Curry said in a statement.
The bill has brought opposition from industry players, including Aurora Innovation, the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, Daimler Truck, Einride, Gatik, Kodiak Robotics, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, TuSimple Holdings, U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Waabi Innovation and Waymo.
Autonomous trucks will make roads safer and not cause significant job displacement, the group said in a letter.
“Autonomous trucks will increase safety on the roads by removing impaired, distracted, and drowsy driving errors,” Jeff Farrah, executive director of the AVIA, said in a statement. He said the AVIA will “continue to oppose this premature ban on AV trucks” as it moves through the legislative process.
The bill in its current form appears poised to restrict the DMV’s ability to proceed with driverless technology for heavy-duty trucks, something that the department has permitted for smaller vehicles. When asked by Transport Dive on whether the bill would effectively stop the department’s efforts to consider changes, the DMV said it doesn’t comment on pending legislation.
“The DMV has taken a phased approach to adopting regulations covering both the testing and public use of autonomous vehicles on California roadways,” the department said in a statement. The department also noted that it “is approaching the safe operation of autonomous vehicles weighing more than 10,001 pounds as a separate regulatory discussion.”
Farrah told Transport Dive that his association and industry partners have been meeting with California legislators to answer questions about the new technology. He also called the bill a preemptive ban that would cause the supply chain and innovation in California fall behind other states.
With approval from the Assembly’s Communications and Conveyance Committee last week, the bill heads next to the state’s Appropriations Committee.