California governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required self-driving vehicles to have a human driver.

“Considering the longstanding commitment of my administration to addressing the present and future challenges for work and workers in California, and the existing regulatory framework that presently and sufficiently governs this particular technology, this bill is not needed at this time,” Newsom wrote. “For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.”"

Good. I don’t see this as a safety issue so much as a make-work law. If a human would have to be in a self-driving truck at all times and ready to assume the controls at a moment’s notice, that’s basically human-driven with extra steps. Either the tech is good enough to be autonomous, or it’s not good enough to replace a human driver in the first place. And as a driver, I don’t think I’d want to be legally responsible for whatever boneheaded move a truck might take in the moments before I could regain control over it. “Hey, I know it was the AI that decided to swerve into the crowd of toddlers, and you only had 300ms to respond, but you were the one sitting in the driver’s seat…”

I’m not thrilled with ending human jobs without giving those people a way to survive. Even if I weren’t sympathetic to those hard-working people who are ready and willing to do the tough jobs that keep society running (and I hope it’s obvious that I am), enlightened self-interest means that I don’t want all of them to be unemployed and hungry. That’s bad for everyone. I also wish we shipped more freight via train, which is cheaper and way more environmentally friendly. Making it easier and cheaper to carry even more via truck is probably the wrong process to optimize.

Still, I think this bill was a well meaning but ultimately wrong solution. Frankly, it seems like it’d be cheaper and more efficient to pay those drivers to stay home than to pay them to perch in a self-driving truck.