California Gov. Gavin Newsome recently made good on his promise to veto a bill effectively banning driverless tractor-trailers in California as Uber Freight and big tech outfits invest heavily in AI technologies. Although Assembly Bill 316 (AB316) had the full support of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the union’s voting bloc, Gov. Newsom refuses to tap the brakes on displacing truckers in the Golden State.
“If Gov. Newsom chooses to not do the right thing, he is sending a message to California and every state in this country that technology should overrule middle-class jobs,” Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien reportedly stated.
He preemptively urged fellow Democrats, who hold a legislative majority, to not move forward with the driverless truck ban. But AB316 landed on his desk, receiving the veto stamp he warned. The move opens the door to big tech companies cashing in on advanced software packages and trucking computer systems. California enjoys the second-highest number of truck driving jobs at 130,000, with Texas employing 172,000. Truckers can anticipate getting displaced once the state’s DMV and others approve AI software packages.
“As part of its oversight and regulatory responsibilities, DMV consults with the California Highway Patrol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and others with relevant expertise to determine the regulations necessary for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads,” Gov Newsom reportedly said. “I am committed to incentivizing career pathways and training for the necessary workforce specifically associated with this technology.”
Uber Freight and others are already taking advantage of driverless truck routes on Interstate 20 or Interstate 45 between Dallas and Houston. The Lone Star state has been called a “proving ground” for autonomous trucking. However, a CDL holder is typically inside the cab as a safety precaution in the event AI and machine learning programs err.
Raquel Urtasun, founder of an AI company called Waabi, reportedly brokered a deal with Uber Freight to fast-track its driverless bandwidth. Waabi raised upwards of $83.5 million to launch in 2021. Urtasun, a computer scientist by trade, recently indicated that safety backup drivers are expected to be phased out. Uber Freight CEO Lior Ron concurred with her assessment.
“When Waabi is ready to get the driver out, we can basically hit the ground running with a full commercial driverless deployment,” Ron reportedly said. “From our perspective, it’s a continuous deployment and ramp up.”