Bill to Promote Sustainable Autonomous Vehicles Passes California Senate

May 30, 2017

On Tuesday, 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.

SB 802 establishes an interagency working group to ensure that as ride sharing and autonomous vehicle use expands, these strategies help rather than hinder California’s air quality, carbon reduction, traffic congestion and sustainable community goals.

“Self-driving cars and ride sharing are poised to transform transportation," said State Senator Nancy Skinner. “With potentially millions of autonomous and rideshare vehicles expected, these cars can either launch us to a clean transportation future or set us back.”

SB 802 sets up a process to prepare California for the adoption of autonomous vehicles and the growth of ride sharing by establishing the ‘Emerging Vehicle Advisory Study Group’. This inter-agency working group – headed by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) – will offer recommendations to the Legislature on policies that maximize the social benefits and minimize the social costs of autonomous vehicles and ride sharing. The Study Group will look at the potential impacts AVs and ridesharing might have on, for example, air pollution, traffic congestion, and land use.

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

Research indicates 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 states 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.’

Upon the passage of SB 802, Bonnie Holmes-Gen, Senior Director, Air Quality and Climate Change for the American Lung Association in California stated, “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.”

Senate Bill 802 will now be heard in the Assembly.