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Updated February 13th, 2024 at 12:27 IST

US lawmakers call for stricter regulation of autonomous vehicles

The Teamsters, one of America's biggest unions, has long opposed the deployment of AVs citing safety hazards and job losses, and it backs both bills.

Business Desk
US lawmakers call for stricter regulation of autonomous vehicles
US lawmakers call for stricter regulation of autonomous vehicles | Image:YouTube Screengrab
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Auto regulation: Lawmakers and labour unions in California, US rallied to call for laws to not allow autonomous trucks on roads without human drivers, in the wake of rising safety concerns over accidents involving self-driving cars.

Autonomous vehicle incidents

A robotaxi from Alphabet's was torched by people celebrating Chinese New Year on Saturday, marking the most destructive attack so far on driverless vehicles in the US.

This comes after a Waymo vehicle hit a cyclist at a city intersection last week and a major accident in October where a Cruise robotaxi hit and dragged a pedestrian for 20 feet.

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Image credit: Waymo 

The act of vandalism reflects a chaotic environment for robotaxis in San Francisco, where public ire has risen after the dragging and bicyclist accidents. State lawmakers are pushing for stricter control through two bills.

Bills focused on AVs

"Those accidents have put an exclamation point on the need for legislation," Senator Dave Cortese, sponsor of a bill that would also give cities control over permits for AVs and enforcement of AV-related laws. Now, only state regulators control permitting.

The other bill requires a trained human driver to be present behind the wheel of self-driving vehicles weighing more than 10,001 pounds, a classification that includes commercial trucks.

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"It's a common sense measure that keeps humans on board a truck until we have a plan for our workers and we're sure that tech bros aren't jamming unsafe technology down our throats," State Assembly Member, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, said at the rally on Monday.

An earlier version of the same truck bill was passed by state lawmakers last year, but Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed it, saying the current regulatory framework was enough to ensure safety. It was reintroduced in the state assembly on Thursday, in light of the Cruise accident.

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Image credit: Google 

The Teamsters, one of America's biggest unions, has long opposed the deployment of AVs citing safety hazards and job losses, and it backs both bills.

The Cruise and Waymo incidents "illustrate that this technology is not ready for prime time and that we can't trust these big tech corporations to regulate themselves," Peter Finn, VP at the union said.

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Tech companies are major contributors to the economy of California, and tightening regulations on autonomous vehicles is perceived by some as complicated.

Waymo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on calls for more regulation and rising safety concerns. Cruise has said its handling of the October accident was a mistake and has offered to settle an investigation by a state regulator.

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Many states, including Texas and Arkansas, allow the testing and operation of self-driving trucks. California already bars heavy-weight autonomous trucks but is in the process of creating regulations that would allow it. The re-introduced truck bill would delay that process.

Autonomous trucks, which operate mostly on set routes and highways, have avoided high-profile accidents.

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While Cruise is facing multiple investigations, including one by the Department of Justice, the Waymo incidents are being investigated by the city police.

(With Reuters Inputs)

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Published February 13th, 2024 at 12:27 IST

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