California passes autonomous vehicle emissions regulations

California has passed a state law requiring all light duty autonomous vehicles operating there from 2030 to have zero tailpipe emissions. The SB500 law is the latest move by California to limit the sale of internal combustion engined vehicles.

In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom, who signed SB500 into law this week, signed an executive order effectively banning the sale of internal combustion engined vehicles by 2035. At the same time, the CA Air Resources Board set out a regulation stating all new lorries sold in the state must have zero tailpipe emissions by 2045.

“We’re grateful for California’s leadership in ensuring this will be the industry standard,” said Prashanthi Raman, head of global government affairs at Cruise, in a statement. “The AV industry is primed to lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in cities, and it’s why we’ve operated an all-electric, zero-emissions fleet from the start.” Cruise backed SB 500 through its involvement with the Emission Zero Coalition, a group that also includes autonomous delivery startup Nuro.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has released data showing that since 2019, the transport sector has had the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Light duty vehicles account for more than half the output. Of these, autonomous vehicles make a tiny fraction currently and with most delivery robots being hybrids or electric anyway, this is seen as a preventative measure against future developments rather than attempting to solve an existing problem.

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