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Bill to outlaw self-driving semis without a human in the cab vetoed by California Governor

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California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a high-profile bill that would have banned the operation of autonomous big rigs without a human driver inside the cab.

AB 316 was introduced in the California Legislature in January 2023 by Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry. Earlier this month, the California Senate passed the bill by a 36 — 2 vote, sending it to Newsom’s desk for approval.

AB 316 would have prohibited “the operation of an autonomous vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or more on public roads for testing purposes, transporting goods, or transporting passengers without a human safety operator physically present in the autonomous vehicle at the time of operation.”

Trucking groups and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters supported the legislation as good for protecting jobs and highway safety and rallied last week at the state Capitol in Sacramento to ask Newsom to sign the bill.

In a September 22 memo, Newsom said that he would not sign the bill into law because “it is unnecessary for the regulation and oversight of heavy-duty autonomous vehicle technology in California, as existing law provides sufficient authority to create the appropriate regulatory framework.” Newsom said that the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was granted the authority to regulate the autonomous vehicle industry in 2012 and that the agency’s oversight was sufficient to ensure public safety.

“Considering the longstanding commitment of my Administration to addressing the present and future challenges for work and workers in California, and the existing regulatory framework that presently and sufficiently governs this particular technology, this bill is not needed at this time. For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill,” Newsom concluded.

“If Gov. Newsom chooses to not do the right thing, he is sending a message to California and every state in this country that technology should overrule middle-class jobs,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “Gov. Newsom, I got a message for you: you want to sign this bill and take on 1.2 million Teamsters in this country? Put your helmet on and buckle in your chinstrap.”

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