New York Senator Proposes Bill Requiring Human Presence in Autonomous Trucks

New York State Senator Pete Harckham, a Democrat from South Salem, Westchester County, recently sponsored a bill that has the support of unions. This law requires any autonomous truck traveling on state highways to have a human driver present. At a news announcement earlier this month at Teamsters Local 456 headquarters, Senator Harckham announced the plan with representatives from Teamsters Local 456.

With the development of autonomous car technology, concerns about job security and public safety are being addressed by a bill co-sponsored by state senator Shelley B. Mayer. A licensed driver would need to be present at all times in autonomous trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, according to the proposed legislation. This measure, according to Senator Harckham, is crucial for safeguarding residents and property while ensuring job stability for the approximately 270,000 New Yorkers employed in the trucking industry.

Currently, New York State’s vehicle and traffic laws lack specific requirements for the presence of a human operator in the cabs of the heaviest vehicles, such as semi-trucks. Senator Harckham emphasized the necessity of human oversight until autonomous technology is thoroughly tested and proven reliable.

Highlighting the significance of the trucking industry in New York, Senator Harckham underscored its role in providing employment opportunities and contributing significantly to the state’s economy, with over $16 billion in annual wages. The bill aims to protect these jobs, which Senator Harckham described as essential for middle-class social mobility.

Support for the bill comes from Louis A. Picani, president of Teamsters Local 456, who emphasized the safety concerns associated with unmanned trucks, labeling them as potential “lethal weapons.” However, opposition to the legislation has been voiced by Jeff Farrah, CEO of the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, who argues against imposing a premature and permanent ban on autonomous trucks in New York.

Despite differing opinions, the introduction of this bill reflects ongoing debates surrounding the integration of autonomous technology into the transportation sector and the measures needed to address associated challenges while ensuring safety and job security.