A wrestling match over who should control robotaxis is playing out in California | TechCrunch

Cities around the country has been around for a long time screaming for more control How autonomous vehicles are deployed on their roads. In California, they may finally get their wish.

A handful of AV-related bills that have made progress this month in their long journey through the state legislature could impose more restrictions on companies like Cruise, Motion, Waymo and Zoox.

a bill, SB 915, is different because it could give cities more power to set their own rules around robotaxis — things like hours of operation and proper pickup and drop-off locations. The bill, which passed the Senate Transportation Committee this week, is one of several laws introduced in California this year dedicated to reining in the cutting-edge technology.

The stakes are high for almost everyone.

California, which is fifth largest economy The world must thread the regulatory needle to protect its residents without losing the next generation of companies that have helped transform the state into a hub of tech talent. Waymo and Cruise, both headquartered in California, risk more red tape that could hinder expansion – a key factor in achieving profitability. City officials and the people they represent fight to express your views How does it all work?

Stricter rules could influence other states to take similar measures — a path that plays out with California’s rules vehicle emission standards, It can also have adverse effects.

“To go town by town and make your case when you have 500 cities in California that impose slightly different standards, it’s really hard to understand why companies would subject themselves to that, especially when your There are a lot of states on the other end that have large population centers, too,” Jeff Farah, CEO of the advocacy group Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA), told TechCrunch. “And they’re saying, ‘Hey, we want you to come. “We believe AVs can solve a lot of problems.”

It’s still early days for a handful of AV bills, all of which must go through a lengthy legislative process and could be vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Here’s an explanation of the bills, where they are in the process, and what it could mean for companies and the public.

SB 915 – Giving local governments more power over AV

Author/Co-Author: State Senator Dave Cortese (D) | Assemblymember Freddy Rodriguez (D)

Sponsor: California Teamsters and California League of Cities.

Cortez introduced SB 915 on April 17. The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee on April 23. It will go to the Appropriations Committee and, if passed, will be brought to the Senate floor.

What is SB 915?

“This bill allows governments to focus on piloting autonomous vehicle services, or AVs, in their communities,” Senator Cortez, whose District 15 includes much of Silicon Valley, said when introducing the bill last week. “Currently AV operations are approved or disapproved at the state level [Department of Motor Vehicles] Or [Public Utilities Commission], Although they take action to gather public input, there is no guarantee that the state will consider local concerns.

Under SB 915, when a state agency like the DMV or CPUC approves AV operations, local governments will be able to pass ordinances to regulate the vehicles in their jurisdictions.

For example, cities would have the power to regulate hours of operation or how many vehicles can be on the road at any time. Cities will be able to create their own, separate permitting processes and penalties for AVs that break local traffic laws. They will also be able to form coalitions with other local governments to collaboratively regulate services.

It is important to note: The language of the bill stipulates that if a local government is unwilling to enact an ordinance (as many local departments are understaffed and overworked), the default guidelines become those approved by the state. Is.

SB 915 would also require all AV commercial passenger service companies to comply with disability access laws, provide an override system for emergency responders, and train emergency responders on how to manually override vehicles.

a patchwork of rules

Those against SB 915, including the lobbying group Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA), various chambers of commerce, and other tech and business industry groups, expressed concerns that creating such a patchwork of local rules would make compliance challenging for companies and Innovation will be restricted. ,

“Cities are very limited in terms of the types of things they can connect to, things like speed limits and local law enforcement,” Farah said. “And so for human-driven vehicles, cities have not had a very strong role in terms of regulation. And we believe it should be applied to the autonomous vehicle world. “It is simply not appropriate to me that autonomous vehicles would be singled out for this type of action.”

Speaking to TechCrunch in a phone interview, Cortez challenged the logic:

This is the culture and system we have now for vehicles in this state in terms of vehicle regulation, so I feel like, if this were sitting on my Apple home screen, we would have pulled AVs into the current plan. The CPUC will continue to regulate your rates. The DMV does your comprehensive permitting and registration. And then local governments will be even smarter and tell you where to drop off and pick up people at the airport, tell you where the safe routes are to schools and whether there are certain loading zones that are not good for AVs.

Precedent for this type of regulation already exists.

Cities and towns already have the ability to set their own rules on many transportation-related issues, such as operating vehicles for hire, a category into which robotaxis certainly fall, according to California vehicle code, Cities can regulate traffic on construction sites, remove parked vehicles from fire lanes and set maximum speed limits.

“And [local governments] Meet every week,” Cortez said. “It’s the part about industry resistance that I haven’t fully considered in my mind. As a business person, I would prefer the agility of local government to deal with these important issues than the state of California, this huge bureaucratic, bicameral system that comes up only once a year.

Cortez said he understands the industry’s concerns that giving more power to localities would jeopardize the ability of AVs to operate there. However, he said the bill does not give cities the authority to ban driverless vehicles.

“On a fundamental basis, what we are trying to communicate to elected officials — who are put there by the people — is that we should not outsource decisions about deploying AI technology, including autonomous vehicles, to the same corporations that are in charge of that.” Building the technology because those are the people who are going to benefit,” Peter Finn, vice president of the Western Region of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, told TechCrunch in a phone interview. “If we put all decision-making in the hands of corporations, they will try to maximize shareholder value.”

According to Finn, AVIA recently published this believe in principles, an industry standard for how AV companies should safely expand operations into communities in the US, including recommendations on transparency, engagement with communities, cybersecurity and privacy standards, and more. The principles serve as guidelines for companies and a statement to governments that the AV industry is fully capable of regulating itself, thank you very much.

California’s remaining autonomous vehicle pipeline

ab 2286 It is a revival of AB 316, a bill that would require the presence of human safety operators in the driver’s seat of autonomous heavy-duty vehicles. In November 2023, Governor Newsom vetoed despite bill tremendous support That’s why Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguirre-Curry (D), Laura Friedman (D) and Ash Kalra (D) introduced it again in February.

The revived bill passed the Senate Committee on Transportation on April 15 and has been referred again to the Committee on Communications and Transportation.

Transportation Committee votes April 22 for progress AB 1777, which will amend the current Vehicle Code as it relates to AVs. The bill, which was introduced in January by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D), calls for manufacturers to certify that AVs can respond to and comply with defined geofencing protocols. It also requires the manufacturer to clearly display a working phone number on the AV, which is monitored at all times to enable communication between companies and law enforcement, emergency responders and traffic control officials.

AB 1777, like SB 915, also opens the door to fines on AV manufacturers if a vehicle driving without a human driver commits a violation.

Farah told TechCrunch that the AV industry never thought that self-driving commercial cars would be exempt from tickets for traffic violations. He noted that except for California, most other states with AV regulation assume that the vehicle manufacturer is the driver, and therefore liable, when no human driver is present.

AB 1777 would also require AV manufacturers to compile and submit quarterly reports to the DMV summarizing the activity of their vehicles. If manufacturers fail to do so, the bill authorizes the DMV to either completely suspend or revoke testing permits, or to gradually implement measures that limit where the vehicles can be tested, How fast you can drive, in what weather conditions and much more.

The last bill to make its way through the California legislature is ab 3061That will require AV manufacturers to provide more robust reporting to the DMV by July 31, 2025. Today, AV companies must report collisions to the DMV and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but this bill would force them to report traffic violations and derailments. As well as any incident of discrimination against a passenger with a disability or any barrier to access.

Manufacturers will be required to submit detailed reports at the time of any incidents, as well as regular reports that include vehicle miles traveled, unplanned stops, and wheelchair-accessible services.

AB 3061 would also require the DMV, as well as other agencies such as the CPUC and the California Highway Patrol Department, to create and publish routine AV incident forms and reports available to the public. If companies fail to comply with the reporting provisions, the DMV will have the authority to impose fines or suspend or revoke permits. Members of the public with direct evidence of an incident will also be given a way to submit an AV incident report.