Waymo and Uber Want California to Allow Larger Self Driving Trucks

Some self-driving truck developers are lobbying California legislators to establish a regulatory framework that would allow the vehicles to operate on public highways in the future.

35 automakers signed an open letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom last week. They said that if the Golden State doesn’t allow testing of self-driving trucks on public roads soon, it will lose its competitive edge.

Since 2019, autonomous vehicle testing on public highways in California has been permitted for smaller cars. However, semi-trucks and delivery vehicles weighing more than 10,001 pounds are still restricted. There are two main reasons why California is an important testing location for self-driving cars: There are numerous major highways in the state that link major cross-country freight routes as well as being a self-driving technology innovation hotspot.

The future of self-driving trucks in California is still up in the air. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is working with the California Highway Patrol to design laws for autonomous vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds but hasn’t set a schedule for that rulemaking process.

There hasn’t been any movement on autonomous vehicle legislation at the state level since 2012, which means that automakers, many of whom are based in California, have been forced to build and test essential technology like driverless semi-trucks in states with more accommodating legislation.

Aurora, a self-driving truck manufacturer, has been running commercial pilots on freight routes in Texas since early 2021. An Aurora spokeswoman said the business wants to remove the vehicle operator fully and put a “limited fleet of driverless trucks” on Texas’ public highways as early as next year when the company plans to remove the in-person operator who ensures the vehicles are working smoothly.

Waymo and Uber Want California to Allow Larger Self Driving Trucks

As self-driving vehicles have gained popularity, there has been debate over whether or not they will eventually eliminate the need for truck drivers in the United States. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon found that autonomous vehicles could eventually replace 90% of the country’s truck drivers in the coming years.

An increasing need for additional truck drivers in the United States is causing concern among industry experts, who believe that driverless trucks will help alleviate this concern and help to fill in the supply chain gaps that will be created as a result. American Trucking Association estimates that the present shortfall of approximately 80,000 truck drivers would grow to 160,000 workers by 2030, according to the organization.

According to Emily Loper, policy director for the Bay Area Council, a business advocacy nonprofit, “there are great prospects for AV trucks to improve the safe and efficient movement of commodities in California.” This idea originated in the Bay Area, and we’d like to see it tested and implemented here first to reap the benefits.

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