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California legislature exploring linking autonomy and electrification

California legislators are exploring linking autonomy and electrification. At the end of May, Senate Bill 802, authored by State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), received bipartisan support and passed the Senate floor with a vote of 26-11. It now goes to the Assembly for consideration.

SB 802 would direct the Office of Planning and Research to convene an Emerging Vehicle Advisory Study Group on or before 1 April 2018, to review policies regarding new types of motor vehicles, including, but not limited to, autonomous vehicles and shared-use vehicles. The bill would require the study group to provide recommendations to the Legislature on or before 1 April 2019 “regarding policies and incentives to maximize the social benefits, minimize the social costs, and encourage the electrification and hybridization of new types of motor vehicles operating in California, including, but not limited to, autonomous vehicles and shared-use vehicles.”

These recommendations shall include recommendations regarding updates to statewide infrastructure planning efforts, and shall identify including recommendations to reduce traffic congestion and identification of any other state barriers to short- and long-term adoption of new types of motor vehicles by the public and private sectors.

Transportation is the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in California – accounting for over one third of the state’s overall emissions. To reach our emissions reduction goals, we need to be strategic as we deploy new vehicles and new transportation modes.

—Senator Skinner

Research suggests that autonomous vehicles have great potential for slashing greenhouse gas emissions but could also increase emissions substantially depending on how the technology is deployed. According to studies by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, autonomous vehicles could either reduce vehicle emissions by 90% or double emissions in the same timeframe.

The study concludes that in order to attain such large pollution reductions, autonomous vehicles will need to be zero emission, programmed to increase fuel efficiency, and largely operated as ‘share vehicles.’

Ninety percent of Californians live in areas that experience unhealthy air, mostly due to transportation pollution. We need to ensure that technological advances protect our public health and our climate from transportation pollution.

—Bonnie Holmes-Gen, Senior Director, Air Quality and Climate Change for the American Lung Association in California

The bill would require the Emerging Vehicle Advisory Study Group to meet at least quarterly, include at least one member each from 6 specified state agencies, who shall be appointed by the Governor, and include 2 members appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules and 2 members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly. These last four members are to include at least two members representing autonomous vehicle manufacturers; a member from a public health or clean air advocacy organization; and a member from a technology industry organization.


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