California, the birthplace and epicenter of the self-driving industry, could soon put the brakes on autonomous trucking.
State lawmakers advanced a bill that would prohibit self-driving big rigs from being tested or commercially operated on public roads unless a human driver is present. Industry executives complain that entrenching humans in the driver's seat would defeat the purpose of autonomy.
A brewing legislative showdown pits Teamsters truck drivers against Silicon Valley's tech elite on their home turf.
California regulations already restrict testing of self-driving technology in large vehicles and the passage of the legislation, Assembly Bill 316, would make those restrictions permanent and cleave the state from more enthusiastic counterparts.
"California is really putting itself in significant jeopardy here," said Jeff Farrah, executive director of the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, an industry trade group that advocates for business-friendly policies. "You have this strange situation where some of the most innovative companies are not able to do deployments in their home state."