California governor vetoes a bill requiring humans in autonomous big rigs

Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed Assembly Bill 316, which would have required human attendants in driverless vehicles over 10,000 pounds, reports Reuters. The bill saw broad support among state legislators and was backed by the Teamsters and other labor organizations. At the moment,

The governor wrote in his veto message that the bill “is unnecessary for the regulation and oversight of heavy-duty autonomous vehicle technology,” adding that the existing regulatory framework is “sufficient.”

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was given regulatory authority over autonomous vehicles in the state. Newsom writes that the DMV consults the state highway patrol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “and others with relevant experience” to write laws to ensure autonomous vehicle safety. The DMV also regulates robotaxis, which have been involved in incidents like one in which a Cruise driverless taxi was struck by a fire truck just a week after the state allowed for their expanded operation.

Newsom wrote that the DMV had sought the input of “interested stakeholders” to help it craft future laws surrounding driverless vehicles. The department, he added, will seek public comment following “transparent, public” rulemaking with “subject matter experts and other stakeholders.”

The bill saw overwhelming support among California lawmakers, with 36 state senators affirming it and just two rejecting the measure on September 11th, and state assemblymembers approving it by 69 to 4 on May 31st.

Teamsters president Sean O’Brien wrote that “jobs and communities” would have been saved by the bill, and vetoing it gives “a greenlight to put these dangerous rigs on the road.”

Prior to the veto, the Teamsters union praised the state assembly on June 1st for passing the measure, saying it’s needed because the DMV is considering rules that would let trucks over 10,000 pounds drive on California roads, potentially by 2024. The union urged Newsom yesterday to pass the bill, noting he had until October 14th to do so. Newsom rejected it the same day.

“My administration has long been concerned with the impact of technology on the future of work,” wrote Newsom in his veto message, later writing that he would ask the Labor and Workforce Department to work with stakeholders to recommend ways to mitigate the damage self-driving trucks may have on employment.


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