Fight for local regulations on driverless cars continues after SB 915 pulled from floor

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — The fight over who controls self-driving taxis on city streets continues.

State Senator Dave Cortese pulled his Senate Bill 915 this week after the Assembly Committee on Transportation presented major amendments.

The bill would have allowed cities and counties to install their own regulations around autonomous vehicles.

“Local mayors, local city councilmembers, they know their community. They pass laws every week. They pass new policies every week. They hold workshops. They bring the community — they can bring the PTA in, so they can talk about how do we make it safe for robotaxis? We can’t do that in Sacramento,” Cortese said.

RELATED: Here’s how SB 915 aims to make autonomous vehicle regulation safer at the local level

Right now, only the DMV is allowed to issue permits to AV companies and has the authority to revoke permits if an AV is not safe on public roads.

“All fire local and police is directed by cities and counties, not the state. And yet, the DMV is authorizing Waymo to go into cities like San Francisco and now 22 other jurisdictions,” Cortese said.

Just last month, Waymo announced it would be expanding fully autonomous, driving down the Peninsula to Sunnyvale.

We spoke with tech expert Ahmed Banafa, who expected the proposed bill would fail and said giving local control to cities could be complicated.

MORE: Elon Musk announces Tesla will unveil its ‘robotaxi’ this summer

“From a logistic point of view, we have sometimes only one street that will separate one town from another one city, from the other city. So what’s going to happen if I would like to take the robotaxi from this city to the other city and the other city has different rules or different restrictions or a time that it cannot enter that city?” Banafa said.

Banafa said it’s important that better communication and regulation is enacted, but in a way that everyone can be happy with.

“We don’t want California to be number two or three when it comes to technology. Waymo and even Cruise, they’re back in business in other states and Waymo can take their business somewhere else if we’re not giving them all the permissions,” Banafa said.

On Wednesday the Autonomous Vehicle industry Association released this statement: “We are encouraged that SB 915 will not move forward. Fortunately, the legislature understood the bill would have prevented safety and accessibility opportunities for millions of Californians.”

MORE: San Mateo Co. files appeal with state regulators over Waymo’s driverless taxi expansion

Cortese said this is not the end of the bill. Something similar will be reintroduced in January. And he expects by this time next year it won’t face so much resistance.

“People in PTAs, people in neighborhoods, people who work at hotels, and they can’t get robotaxis out of the valet parking. You know all those things are going to crop up over the course of the next several months, and I think put a lot of pressure on everyone to get something done similar to what we were trying to do,” Cortese said.

Cortese said AVs are a great burgeoning industry, but it’s one that’s going to need some local controls to keep people safe.

“We’re not here to ban robotaxis. I’m from Silicon Valley. You know we’re here to embrace technology, but we just want to make sure it’s safe,” Cortese said.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.