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Governor Vetoes California Bill Allowing Human Drivers in Autonomous Trucks

In a surprising move, California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required human drivers on board self-driving trucks. The measure, which was backed by union leaders and truck drivers, aimed to save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.

The legislation, which was vetoed on Friday night, would have prohibited self-driving trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) from operating on public roads without a human driver present. This would have included vehicles ranging from UPS delivery vans to massive big rigs.

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, head of the California Labor Federation, expressed shock at Newsom’s veto and argued that driverless trucks are dangerous. She estimated that removing drivers would result in the loss of a quarter million jobs in the state.

“We will not sit by as bureaucrats side with tech companies, trading our safety and jobs for increased corporate profits. We will continue to fight to make sure that robots do not replace human drivers and that technology is not used to destroy good jobs,” Fletcher said in a statement.

In his statement explaining the veto, Newsom stated that additional regulation of autonomous trucks was unnecessary as existing laws are sufficient. He referred to 2012 legislation that allows the state Department of Motor Vehicles to collaborate with relevant authorities and experts to determine the necessary regulations for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Opponents of the bill argued that self-driving cars already on the roads have not caused many serious accidents compared to those driven by humans. Businesses also claim that self-driving trucks would help them transport products more efficiently.

Union leaders and drivers believe that the bill would have addressed safety concerns and future job loss to automation in the truck driving industry.

The bill received significant support in the Legislature, with few lawmakers voting against it. It is part of the ongoing debate about the risks associated with self-driving vehicles and how the workforce will adapt to technological disruptions.

Newsom, who typically enjoys strong support from labor, faced pressure within his administration not to sign the bill. The Office of Business and Economic Development in his administration warned that the bill could push companies developing self-driving technologies to move out of state.

The veto comes at a time when the future of autonomous vehicles is being heavily debated. In San Francisco, two companies recently received approval to operate robotaxis in the city 24/7.

Last Tuesday, hundreds of truck drivers, union leaders, and supporters of the bill held a rally at the state Capitol in Sacramento. They chanted “sign that bill” while semi-trucks lined up in front of the Capitol. California is home to approximately 200,000 commercial truck drivers, according to Teamsters officials.

Newsom also vetoed two other bills on Friday. One would have required judges in custody cases to consider a parent’s affirmation of their child’s gender identity, while the other would have prevented state prison officials from sharing information about incarcerated immigrants with federal authorities.

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