On Wednesday June 5th, the California State Assembly passed legislation in a vote that, should it become law, prohibit vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds from lacking a human driver in the front seat. Now, it goes to the California Senate.
The reason for the two bans is twofold.
The first is that the state does not trust the technology enough to put it behind vehicles that can cause a lot of damage. It does not take a physics degree to understand that a vehicle weighing 2,000 pounds will do less destruction to a building than an 80,000 pound truck going the same speed.
The second reason is the effect it will have on the workers in the economy. Current estimates pin the number of truck drivers in the Golden State to be around 137,000. To have that many people displaced at once could have a reverberating effect on the economy.
The Bill, AB 316, has been met with both support and opposition by the trucking industry, depending on who it is you ask.
Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association Executive Director Jeff Farrah calls AB 316 “a preemptive technology ban that will put California even further behind other states and lock in the devastating safety status quo on California’s roads.” In contrast, Fernando Reyes, a commercial driver who spoke outside the state capitol, voiced his support. “My truck weighs well over 10,000 pounds. The thought of it barreling down the highway with no driver behind the wheel is a terrifying thought, and it isn’t safe. AB 316 is the only way forward for California.”
With the debate being much more complicated than simply straddling party lines, it is hard to say at the present time as to whether or not AB 316 will become law. We will just have to wait and see what happens. With it passing the State Assembly, analogous to the federal House of Representatives, AB 316 still has two more steps before becoming law, and that is not even considering any legal challenges that may befall it as to what happened with AB-5.
Regardless of whether this legislation becomes law or not, it will still be a long time before autonomous driving fully replaces the human driver behind the wheel.
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