Next stop automation

Banning driverless trucks in the US was never going to fly.

01 November 2023

As the famously liberal governor of the United States' most progressive state, Gavin Newsom isn't remotely conservative, and yet he just vetoed a union-backed Bill designed to protect millions of jobs against the ravages of automation. Assembly Bill 316, which would have required all self-driving trucks using roads in California to have a "human safety operator" at the wheel, is a classic piece of Democratic Party legislation: backed by unions and designed to protect ordinary workers at the expense of big companies. So why would Newsom, of all people, veto it? The first and most obvious answer is money. The list of Newsom's biggest donors reads like a who's who of big tech: Reed Hastings (Netflix), Eric Schmidt (formerly Google), Sean Parker (formerly Facebook) and many more.

In a political system as thoroughly monetised as the US’, the billionaire class has enormous clout. The moguls of Silicon Valley got Newsom elected, and they didn't do so out of the goodness of their hearts. Effectively banning driverless trucks – an industry in which billions of venture capital dollars have been invested – was never going to fly.

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