Starting in 2030, California will require all light-duty autonomous vehicles that operate in the state to emit zero emissions. Signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, SB 500 represents the latest effort by the state to limit the sale of new internal combustion vehicles with an eye towards reducing greenhouse emissions. In 2020, Newsom signed an executive order that effectively banned the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035. That same year, the state’s Air Resources Board mandated that all new trucks sold in California emit zero 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 to Engadget. “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.
Per the Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector has been the single largest source of greenhouse emissions in the US since 2019, with light-duty vehicles accounting for more than half of that output. However, autonomous cars currently represent only a tiny fraction of the nearly 15 million vehicles on California roads. Moreover, both Cruise and Waymo, two of the most prominent companies testing fully autonomous taxi services in the state, utilize fleets made almost exclusively of electric and hybrid vehicles. This latest move from California then is about preventing autonomous vehicles from becoming major polluters in the future, particularly if driverless taxi services become popular among commuters.