The state of California is taking significant steps to regulate autonomous vehicles (AVs) with the introduction of two key bills, part of the broader California Automotive Regulatory Standards (CARS) Package. This legislation aims to address both safety and employment concerns in the era of increasing AV deployment.
An upcoming assembly bill will require a trained human operator for AVs exceeding 10,000 lbs. Additionally, Senate Bill 915 (SB 915) mandates that AV companies secure local approval before launching operations in a municipality. These initiatives mirror earlier legislative efforts, particularly AB 316 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and a local control bill by Senator Dave Cortese.
Both bills have garnered substantial support within the legislature. AB 316 was favored by over 90% of lawmakers last session, and SB 915 has the backing of the League of California Cities.
Historically, AV regulation in California was managed by state agencies such as the DMV and the CPUC, without direct municipal involvement. This situation led to concerns about the adequacy of AV safety standards and the degree of local control over AV operations.
Peter Finn, a Teamsters representative, emphasized the importance of robust AV safety standards and local input in AV deployment. He also expressed concerns over the previous regulatory approach by state agencies.
Jason Rabinowitz, another Teamsters representative, reflected on the state’s actions in 2023, highlighting the need for stronger safety measures in AV legislation. He commended Aguiar-Curry and Cortese for reintroducing these bills.
The DMV has been criticized for not adequately tracking AV-related accidents, and the CPUC faced backlash for its rulings favoring autonomous vehicle companies like Cruise and Waymo, especially following several incidents involving public safety.
In spite of these issues, the DMV recently approved an expansion of Waymo’s operations, allowing broader access across various municipalities, including highways and freeways.
Lindsay Dougherty, from the Teamsters, called for a balance between technological advancements and worker protection, underscoring the importance of job security in the face of growing AV adoption.
The proliferation of AV technology also raises concerns about the impact on employment. In California alone, around 200,000 professional drivers could be affected, with the potential for broader national implications.
Chris Griswold, another Teamsters leader, stressed the importance of legislative measures that safeguard workers’ interests, in light of the potential job displacements due to increased automation.
Bottom Line: These legislative efforts in California represent a response to the challenges posed by autonomous vehicle technology, focusing on ensuring safety, local governance, and protecting the workforce.