Watch Now

California State Assembly votes to ban driverless trucks

Overwhelming vote would require safety drivers in heavier autonomous trucks

The California State Assembly voted 54-3 on May 31 to ban autonomous trucks without a safety driver from state roadways. (Photo: Volvo Trucks)

The California State Assembly voted Wednesday to ban driverless trucks from the state’s roadways, requiring a safety driver be present. If passed by the Senate, it would leave the state where most autonomous trucking companies are based as an outlier in adopting the technology.

The 54-3 vote banning autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds from operating without a safety driver followed similar majority committee votes on Assembly Bill 316. The measure received support from the Teamsters and other labor groups. They claim driverless trucks would eliminate thousands of good-paying jobs for human drivers.

“The public should not be treated as a lab rat for big corporations to test their technology. Californians deserve a safety-first approach. And this bill would do just that,” Randy Cammack, president of Teamsters Joint Council 42, said in March.

California 2024 Senate candidates U.S. Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee have voiced support for the legislation. San Francisco Mayor London Breed also has expressed support.

Autonomous vehicle industry wants governor’s support

“AB 316 is 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, which saw more than 4,400 people die last year,” the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA) said in a statement after the vote.

“AB 316 undermines California’s law enforcement and safety officials as they seek to regulate and conduct oversight over life-saving autonomous trucks,” said Jeff Farrah, AVIA executive director. “We encourage Governor Newsom and the State Senate to reject AB 316 so Californians will benefit from the safety and supply chain benefits of autonomous trucks.”

In an April 20 editorial, the Orange County Register said opposition to driverless trucking is “classic union featherbedding.”

Dozens of autonomous trucking and technology founders, CEOs, and others wrote to Newsom in June 2022. California in late August released “Driving the Future: Autonomous Vehicles Strategic Framework Vision and Guiding Principles.”

The nine-page document concludes that “AVs hold the promise to be an important part of our mobility future.” But its added that “they are just one part of a broader set of solutions.”

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is considering the framework that could allow autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds to hit the road, without consent from the State Legislature.

Self-driving trucking software companies Kodiak Robotics, Plus, Waymo and TuSimple are all based in California. But they only operate their trucks in the state with safety drivers. That is the current practice in other states. Several states have shown willingness to eventually allow the driver to be removed from the truck.

TuSimple is aiming to commercialize a driverless route in Arizona between Tucson and Phoenix as soon as 2024. Pittsburgh-based Aurora is planning to run driverless trucks in Texas by the end of next year.

Why does California lag in autonomous freight commercialization testing?

Uber Freight and Waymo Via envision autonomous trucking for all

Kodiak Robotics’ autonomous confidence extends to cutting cables 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


  1. Steven Krashefski

    “Life-saving autonomous trucks,” is what the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA) executive director, Jeff Farrah calls them… Clearly, Jeff has never driven an 18 wheeler nor has he ever driven anything more than a keyboard and a phone for a career.

    I got news for you Jeff, I drive 18 wheelers for a living. Driving the tractor unit and trailer is easy. What is not easy is anticipating what stupid, dangerous, and suicidal things drivers of 4 wheelers – that’s people with regular Class D licenses Jeff – are going to do next.

    While driving, only 10% of my brain power is actually spent on maneuvering the truck. The other 90% of my brain power is spent on predicting how non-professional – aka: brainless – drivers are going to behave, and driving defensively so, if other drivers do in fact do something stupid, they do not end their lives with they help of my 80,000 lbs truck. And believe me Jeff, some of these other drivers try really hard to end their lives through sheer stupidity. They are dumber than that kid in your kindergarten class that ate glue all the time.

    Being able to react fast to the stupidity of other drivers is not enough: not in a vehicle that is over 70 feet long, 80,000 lbs, and takes over 3 football fields to come to a complete stop at highway speeds. You have to anticipate what other drivers are going to do; you have to be able to read road signs and comprehend what information they are conveying; you have to be able to navigate torturous, dangerous, and forever changing road construction (i.e. the 294 through Chicago); you have to be able to deal with detours, road closures, and emergency vehicles on the side of the road; and most of the time you have to be able to do any combination or even all of these things all at the same time.

    A computer is not going to be able to do that safely, Jeff, not in an 18 wheeler. Computers are really good at solving logic problems but the problems that happen on the road are not logical, and regular Class D drivers driving their 4 wheeled vehicles are anything but logical, and especially throw all common sense out the window when they get near a big, 80,000 lbs 18 wheeler.

    Autonomous Commercial Vehicles will assist many of these dumb drivers in killing themselves.

    It’s not the professional drivers with Class A Commercial Driver’s Licenses that are unsafe nor are their 18 wheelers unsafe; it is the dumb Class D drivers of 4 wheeled vehicles that break traffic law, don’t read road signs, and do stupid, dangerous, and suicidal things around big trucks because they either don’t know any better, or are just that dumb, and they do it all the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Comments are closed.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.