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Less Driverless?

Less Driverless?

A piece of legislation reintroduced to the California State Assembly last week could put up an additional roadblock to developing driverless trucks. AB 2286 is part of the California Automotive Regulatory Standards (CARS) package that is supported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. AB 2286 and its counterpart SB 915 both regulate autonomous vehicles (AVs). AB 2286 would require a trained human operator to be behind the wheel of any AV weighing over 10,000 pounds, and SB 915 requires AV operators, such as Alphabet’s robotaxi company Waymo, to obtain approval through a local ordinance prior to starting operations in a given municipality. If passed, the economics of operating driverless trucks in the U.S. become less favorable, given California’s size and status as a border state with many busy ports.

Earlier this month, San Diego-based driverless truck developer TuSimple announced it was abandoning its U.S. operation and shifting its focus toward the APAC market, specifically China, Japan and Australia. The news followed a string of setbacks for the company in the U.S., including losing its development partner Navistar International in December 2022. In December last year, the company laid off 150 employees in San Diego as it wound down its U.S. operations. TuSimple had long been scrutinized by regulators for the company’s alleged ties to China and the Wall Street Journal early this year reported that U.S. agents stopped a shipment of advanced chips sent by TuSimple as part of a probe into whether the company planned to send the chips to China, in violation of export controls. TuSimple responded in a Jan. 30 statement that the reporting was “inaccurate” and that the company was sending the A100 chips referenced in the WSJ article to Australia because of its winding down of U.S. operations.

China connections aside, TuSimple is not the only AV truck company to face setbacks. Last year, Bay Area-based Embark Trucks sold its assets to an autonomous simulation business, and Alphabet abandoned its Waymo Via truck business. Remaining players in the AV truck space – Aurora Innovation, Kodiak Robotics, Torc Robotics and newcomers like Waabi and Stack AV – will now have to contend with the possibility of losing driverless access to the largest sub-national economy in the world.

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A COVID-era program seeded by San Diego Foundation and managed by Mission Driven Finance proved to be effective in supporting nonprofits during the pandemic. Last week, the Foundation shared that the $5.2 million lent to 26 nonprofits through its San Diego County COVID-19 Nonprofit Loan Program has been repaid with less than one-tenth of one percent in losses.

The program benefited a wide variety of nonprofits, from impact services organizations such as Somali Family Service of San Diego and Angels Foster Family Network, to arts groups such as Gold Youth Arts Organization and Space 4 Art, as well as a variety of health and conservation groups.

Loan amounts in the 2020-launched program ranged from $150,000 to $300,000, with loan terms ranging from 18 to 30 months. San Diego Foundation stated it plans to reinvest the $5.2 million into its current housing-related efforts.

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