2023 Autonomous Trucking Leaders Emerge as California Vetoes Bill

Autonomous trucking leaders solidify as California's regulatory landscape adapts with Governor Newsom vetoing a driverless truck regulation bill.

2023 Autonomous Trucking Leaders Emerge as California Vetoes Bill
Image Source: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The autonomous trucking industry witnessed a pivotal year in 2023, with three major players emerging amid market exits and entries. This evolution was met with a significant regulatory development in California, where Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 316, a bill aimed at regulating driverless trucks.

This bill would have required a human safety operator and strict reporting post-collisions, reflecting concerns from unions like the Teamsters over job preservation and public safety.

2023 Autonomous Trucking Exits

Embark Trucks

  • Date: March 2023
  • Reasoning: Financial difficulties after spending most of the SPAC proceeds, investors redeemed $300 million in shares, and no manufacturing partner, leading to liquidation and eventual sale to Applied Intuition.

Waymo Via

  • Date: Layoffs began in March 2023, with the practical shutdown in July 2023.
  • Reasoning: Alphabet Inc.'s cost-cutting measures and refocusing on robotaxi programs, though maintaining a partnership with Daimler Truck for a redundant chassis project.


  • Date: Strategic review began in late June 2023; U.S. operations winding down expected in the first quarter of 2024.
  • Reasoning: Strategic shift to focus on China, following legal scrutiny. TuSimple faced an FBI and SEC investigation over its undisclosed ties with the China-backed Hydron Inc and potential breaches of fiduciary duties and securities laws. Officials examined whether TuSimple shared U.S.-developed intellectual property with Hydron, potentially defrauding investors​.

Industry Leaders

The autonomous trucking industry in 2023 has seen significant developments, with three companies rising as leaders in the wake of others' exits.

Aurora Innovation:

  • Capital: Raised over $800 million in new capital.
  • Plans: Aims to commercialize driverless routes in Texas by the end of next year.
  • Progress: Declared its system "feature complete" and now focuses on validation and improving performance.
  • Partnerships: Collaborates with Paccar Inc. and Volvo Group on redundant chassis development.

Kodiak Robotics:

Kodiak showcases how its truck masterfully handles a blowout scenario.
  • Leadership: Hired former USA Truck CEO James Reed as COO.
  • Developments: Showcased its Kodiak Driver autonomous system on a Ford F-150 pickup truck prototype for the military.
  • Funding: Received a grant for up to $50 million from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Torc Robotics:

  • Support: Benefits from being a subsidiary of Daimler Truck, with significant resources.
  • CEO: Under the leadership of Peter Vaughan Schmidt, focused on disciplined growth.
  • Vision: Plans to introduce commercialized autonomy from the Mexico border to St. Louis as its initial driverless route by 2027.

These companies are setting the stage for the next phase of autonomous trucking, emphasizing commercialization, strategic partnerships, and innovation.

Newsom's AB 316 Veto

The bill's veto echoes California's dynamic stance on autonomous technology, balancing safety with innovation. Newsom’s decision aligns with federal movements and opens a dialogue on the workforce implications of autonomous vehicles.

Sources: The Signal | FreightWaves

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