It's now up to governor Gavin Newsom.

Ban Hammer

The California Senate has passed a bill that requires autonomous trucks to have a human safety operator behind the wheel at all times while on public roads.

Put simply, it's a ban on driverless trucks — a blow to an industry that has already struggled to establish itself in the US.

But the bill's not written in stone yet. While 36 Senate members voted in favor of the bill dubbed AB 316 and only two voted against it, it still has to be signed by governor Gavin Newsom to become law.

Given his recent track record, there's a good chance Newsom will veto the bill, as TechCrunch reports. The expected line of reasoning: banning new technologies could stifle innovation, as Dee Dee Myers, senior advisor to Newsom, argued in an August letter.

Driverless trucking companies have already faced an uphill battle with regulators across the country, considering the technological and logistical challenges involved — but if the industry ever succeeds in really proving itself, it stands to remake the norms of the transportation industry at a basic level.

No Brainer

Meanwhile, labor unions have come out in support of the ban, with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters urging Newsom to sign the bill.

In a statement, Teamsters general president Sean O'Brien said that Newsom "actually needs to prove that he cares about workers by signing AB 316," arguing that vetoing the bill could put the "livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of truck drivers at risk, while jeopardizing public safety."

"California voters, legislators, public safety officials, and workers all support this bill," said Jason Rabinowitz, President of Teamsters Joint Council 7, in the statement. "This should be a no-brainer."

Meanwhile, driverless trucking companies have argued that driverless truck technology could save lives, pointing to the 5,788 truck-related deaths in the US in 2021, TechCrunch reports.

While the California DMV still technically doesn't allow permits for AVs that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, the bill is meant to come into effect if such a ban were ever to be lifted.

AB 316 will now require the DMV to prove to lawmakers that AV technologies are safe in the trucking sector over the next five years, but according to TechCrunch, permits won't be issued until at least 2030.

Even the DMV is opposing the bill, though, arguing in a statement to TechCrunch that it won't "increase safety and will, in fact, have a chilling effect on the development of technology in California that is intended to result in increased safety benefits on our roadways."

More on self-driving trucks: Self-Driving Truck Completes First Cross-Country Freight Run

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