Autonomous Trucks? California Says No

Waymo Heavy Duty Truck

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Michael Brooks, executive director at the Center for Auto Safety, sides with the legislators. “At this point, we would recommend a trained safety driver in every autonomous vehicle on the road,” he told U.S. News. “They’re not yet where we’d like them to be on safety.”

By Jim Motavalli
February 1, 2023

On January 27, the California Department of Motor Vehicles held a public workshop on self-driving trucks in Sacramento, asking such questions as: “What requirements should be in place when testing heavy-duty autonomous vehicles (AVs) without a safety driver?”

If a pair of California state legislators, Assemblywoman Cecilia Agular-Curry (D-Winters) and Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) have their way, those large self-driving trucks under test will never operate without a safety driver. The legislation would require someone behind the wheel and alert when the truck weighs more than 10,001 pounds. Most AV testing to date has been with such drivers in place, ready to take over when needed.

California first allowed piloted smaller autonomous trucks (up to 10,001 pounds) on state roads in 2014, then in 2018 allowed such testing without a driver in control. The big rigs were not allowed at all.

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