Home>Articles>Reactions Erupt Following Gov. Newsom’s Veto of Bill to Require Drivers in Autonomous Trucks

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaking at a press conference outside Napa State Hospital, Napa, CA, Mar 24, 2022. (Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)

Reactions Erupt Following Gov. Newsom’s Veto of Bill to Require Drivers in Autonomous Trucks

‘If one AV truck kills one person in the coming years, Newsom is going to have blood on his hands’

By Evan Symon, September 25, 2023 5:10 pm

A bill that would have required driverless trucks to have a driver in the vehicle and effectively ban all self-driving trucks operating alone in California, was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the weekend, leading to a predictable polarizing reaction across the state, and accusations that Newsom is showing his true colors.

Assembly Bill 316, authored by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguilar-Curry (D-Winters) 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.

For months, Newsom advisors, the AV vehicle industry, and silicon valley tech supporters were at odds with labor unions, the majority of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and vehicle safety groups. Supporters of AB 316 challenged the overall safety of having driverless trucks on the road as well as how the bill could potentially erase tens of thousands of jobs from the state. Detractors, meanwhile, said that the bill would chase out all AV companies in California, would hurt the state economically, and would further harm California’s already shaky tech industry.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“Lawmakers aren’t against technology, but we see the bill as a safer way for companies to test self-driving trucks,” said Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) earlier this month. “We want balance because we believe in people, and we believe in public safety. When surprises happen, physics is not your friend.”

Following passage of the bill earlier this month, AB 316 went to Governor  Gavin Newsom’s desk. With both sides strongly influencing him, it remained unknown what he would do about the bill. However, late on Friday, he vetoed the bill, explaining in a veto message that AB 316 is “unnecessary” and is “not needed at this time”.

“I am returning Assembly Bill 316 without my signature,” Newsom said this weekend. “Assembly Bill 316 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.”

“Autonomous vehicle technology is evolving and the DMV remains committed to keeping our rules up to date to reflect its continued development in California. DMV held public workshops with interested stakeholders earlier this year to inform the development of future rulemakings for both light-duty and heavy duty autonomous vehicles. This rulemaking will be a transparent, public process where subject matter experts and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to shape the regulations related to the safe operations of autonomous vehicles in California.”

“In addition to safety, my Administration has long been concerned with the impact of technology on the future of work – so much so that in 2019 we convened, with participation from a variety of organized labor leaders including the Teamsters, UFCW, and SEIU, a robust Future of Work Task Force. That effort led to the publication of a report that guides our work on issues of emerging technology and its impacts on California’s workforce.”

“But our efforts don’t end there. I am committed to incentivizing career pathways and training for the necessary workforce specifically associated with this technology. As such, I am directing the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to lead a stakeholder process next year to review and develop recommendations to mitigate the potential employment impact of testing and deployment of autonomous heavy-duty vehicles.”

“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’s AB 316 veto

AV companies and Silicon Valley groups praised the decision, with many sending out statements over the weekend.

“We commend Governor Newsom for vetoing AB 316. As a result, California’s safety experts can continue to evaluate autonomous vehicle technology and consider appropriate regulatory action. We look forward to continuing to work with the California DMV, California Highway Patrol, Labor and Workforce Development Agency and other state regulators that are evaluating the future of autonomous trucking technology in the state,” said Jeff Farrah, executive director for the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association.

Silicon Valley Leadership Group Vice President Peter Leroe-Munoz added that “AB 316 makes innovation – and the jobs it supports – more difficult to sustain. The current absence of testing and deployment rules for AV trucks in California has already pushed companies to innovate and create jobs in other states that are leading the way on ground-breaking technologies. Texas, Arizona and others have positioned themselves to become the new rivals to California’s tech leadership. California small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits already face costly delivery backlogs and supply chain delays. This bill exacerbates these challenges and ignores the benefits that would come from the more efficient movement of agricultural, retail and manufacturing goods throughout the Golden State.”

Conversely, many also immediately spoke out against Newsom’s decision, saying that he is in the pocket of Silicon Valley, is ignoring what most Californians want, has just put millions of people in the state in danger, and has effectively irreversibly hurt his relationship with labor unions going forward.

“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 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.”

Political and labor experts also noted on Monday to the Globe that Newsom’s political future has now taken a “big hit” because of  him choosing to veto the bill.

“Most people are wondering what the hell he is thinking,”  said labor consultant Jeanne Rogers to the Globe. “He is tied very closely to Silicon Valley and the San Francisco crowd, and many have speculated that that is a big reason. He also likely listened to his advisors, who kept saying how much it would cost the state if he signed the bill. Basically money and the tech industry.”

“But labor is now furious at him, and you have to remember that labor never forgets. If he runs for president in, say 2028, this is going to come up. Also, he tried to justify the safety angle in his veto message, but whoever helped him draft it forgot to go over the impact of it. If one AV truck kills one person in the coming years, Newsom is going to have blood on his hands. A driver on board is just another safety feature when technology fails and people are needed to drive, but Newsom just ignored that. He also just cost so many Californians their jobs.”

“Something seems off on this one. This isn’t a usual veto. He had to ignore both parties, unions, and car safety groups. If anything, he is showing his true colors to the people that had backed him until now.”

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7 thoughts on “Reactions Erupt Following Gov. Newsom’s Veto of Bill to Require Drivers in Autonomous Trucks

  1. “Labor is now furious at him, and you have to remember that labor never forgets,” said consultant Jeanne Robinson.
    Has Newsom’s “political future now taken a big hit” because of this veto? Is Newsom’s world beginning to unravel, finally, from this and other blunders? Guess we’ll see.

  2. It really is a little scary to be next to an 80,000-pound truck and trailer rolling down a highway at 55MPH with no one in it with lots of other vehicles all around it. If there is a major accident, I bet Sacramento passes legislation removing any liability from the manufacturer of the truck.

  3. All I can say at this point, is follow the money. He must have some big donors who are connected to the AV manufacturers.

    Reminder to Newsolini, your children will be on the road along side these modern day “monster” trucks. Yes you will have blood on your hands when an inevitable accident occurs.
    Boy if you think the fire fighters have their work cut out for them when a Tesla crashes you just wait!

  4. I feel it is UNSAFE to have driverless trucks. It is bad enough, with the human drivers. They have a tricky route to contend with anyway, dodging through traffic, changing lanes, getting off and on the highways. The truck drivers are usually patient, and not too pushy, they are good drivers. I think it would be very dangerous to expect some kind of technology to actually drive one of those big rigs.. We have enough accidents WITH HUMAN DRIVERS. It is insane to allow “technology” to attempt to drive these trucks throughout the US. I, personally cannot imagine any driverless vehicle, car or truck that can span the roads, crosswalks, accidents, changes in circumstances, unless they are programmed to anticipate the circumstances on a freeway or in town, which can happen in an instant, not to mention weather changes, etc. At this point, I am unable to let go of control of my own vehicle , not to mention other “empty driverless cars”, and especially the big – rig trucks which use our highways daily and nightly. I feel there will be more accident and travesty due to these new changes in our society. I am very uncomfortable and wary of driverless vehicles, and especially driverless TRUCKS!!!! NOT TO MENTION THE LOSS OF CAREERS FOR MANY TRUCK DRIVERS WE SEE MANEUVERING THESE LARGE TRUCKS ON OUR HIGHWAY.

  5. This veto isn’t mysterious at all. Hair Gel’s real constituency, and his donors, are all from The Cult that meets in Davos. He’s a WEF Young Leaders alumnus. AB316 runs counter to the Great Reset agenda. Unless and until the massive election fraud in 2020 and ’22 is addressed with real, appreciable consequences for the perpetrators, we live in a country where voters don’t matter – ballots matter. Newsom knows that, and he knows who can deliver those ballots. This is probably how he ‘won’ the recall election, in my humble opinion. He isn’t about to offend any of his masters.

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