New York State is gearing up to become the latest battleground for autonomous vehicles (AVs) as Waymo announces plans to commence testing in Buffalo. The revelation has stirred an intense response from the Teamsters union, signaling its intent to lobby legislators against permitting what it deems “unsafe robotaxis” on the streets.
The Teamsters, actively involved in opposing driverless testing of trucks in California, now turns its attention to the potential deployment of AVs on the other side of the United States. Waymo's Nov. 6 blog post disclosed the company's intention to conduct testing in regions with different driving cultures and conditions. Buffalo, according to Waymo's tweet, was chosen for “weather testing.”
Winter is coming—and we're taking the #WaymoDriver on a road trip to Buffalo, New York for weather testing to further advance our autonomous driving technology's ability to navigate a diverse range of environments. https://t.co/WBfT7few0J pic.twitter.com/Wkt1ggMwYc
— Waymo (@Waymo) November 6, 2023
In response, the Teamsters issued a statement expressing their concern about the introduction of AVs without human drivers. Thomas Gesualdi, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16, emphasized, “Driverless vehicles are a direct threat to public safety,” urging lawmakers to focus on responsible regulation instead of turning New York roads into test grounds for tech giants.
Gesualdi referenced an incident on Oct. 2 in San Francisco, where a pedestrian was hit by a human-driven vehicle, leading to a subsequent collision with a Cruise self-driving taxi. The aftermath prompted Cruise to halt all operations nationwide as it strives to rebuild public trust. The Teamsters also highlighted a previous incident where a Waymo AV was involved in the death of a dog in San Francisco earlier this year.
Accusing Waymo of aggressive lobbying efforts with New York Governor Kathy Hochul and the City of New York, the Teamsters emphasized that New York currently mandates AV testing to include a human behind the steering wheel. George Harrigan, President of Teamsters Joint Council 46, expressed satisfaction that proposed AV bills, S1012 and A539, which aimed to change this regulation, had not advanced in the state legislature.
“We urge lawmakers to stand with New York and not Silicon Valley by killing these bills and any similar legislation that doesn't include collaboration with workers,” Harrigan urged. As the debate intensifies, New York remains a critical battleground where the balance between technological advancement and public safety will likely determine the future of AV testing in the state.