California Lawmakers Approve Bill Requiring All New Self-Driving Vehicles to be Zero-Emission in 2030

Published Sep 2, 2021

SACRAMENTO (Sept. 2, 2021)—The California Legislature today approved SB 500, a bill sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that will steer self-driving vehicles toward an all-electric future.

If the legislation is signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, all new, light-duty autonomous vehicles must emit zero emissions to operate in California beginning in 2030. The bill, SB 500, was introduced by Sen. Dave Min (D-CA) and applies to model year 2031 vehicles and beyond.

“This is a smart policy that will help California move toward its ambitious and necessary climate goals,” said Elizabeth Irvin, a UCS senior transportation analyst. “Cutting-edge sensor technology shouldn’t be paired with antiquated combustion engines. Automated vehicles can be part of a clean, equitable transportation system as long as they are run on zero-emission electricity, lead to widespread pooling of trips, and are deployed in coordination with frequent, reliable, and accessible mass transit.”

To help achieve its climate goals, California aims to put 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030 and Governor Newsom has committed to requiring that sales of all new passenger vehicles be zero-emission by 2035. Last year, autonomous vehicles traveled almost 2 million miles on California’s public roads.

“Self-driving cars have the potential to make driving more convenient, safer, and cheaper, especially for industries that currently hire human drivers. Our research shows that these exact benefits of automation could result in many more miles driven, increasing both tailpipe emissions and traffic congestion,” Irvin said. “Given that transportation is California's number one source of global warming and air pollution, SB 500 is a critical policy to ensure that driverless vehicles won’t worsen our air quality and contribute to the climate crisis.”