California Will Require All New Self-Driving Vehicles to be Zero-Emission Beginning in 2030

Published Sep 24, 2021

Media Contact

SACRAMENTO (Sept. 23, 2021)—California Gov. Gavin Newsom today signed legislation sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that will ensure future self-driving vehicles do not increase air pollution and worsen the climate crisis.

Senate Bill 500, introduced by Sen. Dave Min (D-CA), requires that all new, light-duty autonomous vehicles emit zero emissions to operate in California beginning in 2030 with model year 2031.

“UCS commends Gov. Newsom for signing SB 500 into law today,” said Interim Western States Director Jason Barbose. “The governor understands that the future of transportation is all-electric and by signing SB 500 he is pushing California closer to that future.”

While self-driving cars have the potential to make driving more convenient, safer, and cheaper— especially for industries that currently hire human drivers—UCS research shows that those benefits could also result in many more miles driven, increasing both tailpipe emissions and traffic congestion. Last year, autonomous vehicles traveled almost 2 million miles on California’s public roads.

“Transportation is California's number one source of global warming and air pollution and SB 500 is a smart policy to ensure that driverless vehicles don’t contribute to the problem,” said Elizabeth Irvin, a UCS senior transportation analyst. “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.”