Governor Vetoes CalChamber-Opposed Autonomous Vehicles Bill

Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a California Chamber of Commerce-opposed bill relating to autonomous trucks.

AB 316 (Aguiar-Curry; D-Winters) would have codified an arbitrary date by which heavy duty autonomous vehicles must keep a human safety operator within the vehicle, bypassing the state’s current regulatory process.

In his September 22 veto message, the Governor said AB 316 is unnecessary because existing law provides sufficient authority to create the appropriate regulatory framework.

In 2012, the Legislature provided the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with the authority to regulate the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on California public roads.

The DMV consults with the California Highway Patrol and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and others to determine what regulations are needed for autonomous vehicles to operate safely on public roads. DMV has the authority to suspend or revoke autonomous vehicle operating permits as needed to protect public safety.

DMV held public workshops earlier this year with interested stakeholders as a prelude to developing rules for light duty and heavy duty autonomous vehicles.

The Governor’s message noted that autonomous vehicle technology is evolving and that the DMV remains committed to keeping state rules up-to-date to reflect the continued development of the technology in California.

The CalChamber has commented that AB 316 would not add safety to California roadways. According to the NHTSA, 1 in 3 long-haul truck drivers will experience a serious crash in their careers. Many such incidents are due to personal issues/decisions, such as drunk driving, texting while driving, or falling asleep at the wheel. None of those factors are issues for autonomous vehicles.

In other states, autonomous trucks have been operating safely.

The Governor’s veto of AB 316 allows the stakeholder-focused, public DMV rulemaking process to continue, giving participants the opportunity to discuss key questions, including how to integrate heavy duty autonomous vehicles into the California economy without disrupting the current job market in the trucking industry.

Staff Contact: Brady Van Engelen

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Brady Van Engelen joined the CalChamber in November 2022 as a policy advocate specializing in energy issues. He also leads CalChamber advocacy on climate change, environmental regulation and transportation matters. Before joining the CalChamber policy team, Van Engelen served as a senior policy manager at Bloom Energy, representing the company before the California Legislature and California Public Utilities Commission. He previously was a gubernatorial appointee to the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) and served as special assistant to the state oil and gas supervisor. Van Engelen also was defense legislative assistant to then-U.S. Senator John Kerry and prior to working on Capitol Hill, worked in policy and advocacy roles at Veterans For America. Van Engelen served in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2005, and received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He earned a master’s degree in government from Johns Hopkins University, and has an M.B.A. from the University of California, Davis.