Proposed legislation would requires a safety driver to be present in the cab of any vehicle weighing more than 10,000 lbs
5 hours ago
by Chris Chilton
A battle is brewing in California over whether to allow fully autonomous trucking in the state, and one side has introduced legislation to try to make sure it never happens.
Self-driving tech is coming to both cars and trucks, but while those focused on its use in passenger vehicles mainly worry about safety, the arguments about its use in long-distance commercial rigs are more complicated. It’s not only lives that are potentially at stake, but the livelihoods of truck drivers as well.
So two state legislators backed by the California Labor Federation and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents truckers, want to introduce backstop legislation that would require any vehicle over 10,000 lbs (4,536 kg) fitted with autonomous technology to have a safety driver present while testing or operating within the state. If the bill passes, big rigs would need a driver even if the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) decides to allow autonomous trucks.
“If we are going to roll out this technology, then it should be done by the legislature, not by a regulatory agency,” Jason Rabinowitz, Teamsters Joint Council 7 president, told Automotive News. “It should be well thought out. Protection of our economy should be the No. 1 concern, not the profits of these corporations that are pushing this technology, trying to make us move too fast.”
Related: Autonomous Trucks Could Replace 90% Of Humans On Long-Haul Routes
California has allowed the testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver present since 2018 and expanded the law to include certain cargo vans and pickup trucks the following year. But a rule prohibiting vehicles weighing more than 10,001 lbs means large trucks and semis can’t currently operate without a driver.
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That last piece of legislation could be removed after lobbying from the autonomous vehicle industry that warns California will be left behind if it doesn’t follow the lead of other states, including Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas, in allowing driverless trucks. A study from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation Suggested that autonomous trucks could boost economic activity in the state to the tune of $6.5 billion.