Missouri Gov. Vetoes Platoon Program After Tesla Incident

July 12, 2016

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Missouri Governor Jeremiah W. Nixon has vetoed HB1733, a bill that would have established a pilot program for testing automated long-haul trucks using platooning technology.

In a letter explaining his veto, Gov. Nixon said that one of the reasons for his veto was that establishing a pilot program for testing platooning vehicles on Missouri highways could put the public at risk.

He specifically referenced an accident involving a self-driving Tesla car that lead to the death of an Ohio man as an example of the danger automated driving technology could pose.

“Automated driving technology has advanced significantly within the last several years, however the long term safety and reliability of this technology remains unproven,” Nixon stated. “That fact was tragically highlighted with the recent fatality involving a self-driving passenger vehicle.”

In the May 7 incident, a man Joshua Brown was killed while using the Autopilot feature of his Tesla Model S. A white tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla at an intersection, but the autopilot failed to "see" the vehicle and did not brake. It is believed that the Autopilot’s cameras were unable to recognize the white trailer against a brightly lit sky.

Gov. Nixon says that he felt that platooning could pose an even greater risk to the public because it requires multiple large trucks to travel in tandem with little separation and synchronized braking and acceleration.

“The risks associated with automated vehicles are even greater considering the size of long-haul trucks and the catastrophic damage that could occur if the technology failed,” he stated. “Using Missouri highways as a testing ground for long-haul trucks to deploy this unproven technology is simply a risk not worth taking at this time.”


  1. 1. Richard Bishop [ July 13, 2016 @ 12:24PM ]

    As chair of the ATA TMC Task Force on Automated Driving and Platooning, and someone who is deeply involved in the automated driving scene in general, I’m disappointed to see Governor Nixon conflate first generation truck platooning with autopilot systems on cars — they’re completely different. First generation truck platooning systems are not automated — the system only controls the pedals and leaves the steering and monitoring of the road to the drivers of the two connected trucks. Autopilot systems, such as Tesla’s, automate steering, braking, and acceleration, allowing drivers to disengage from driving — hands-off, feet-off, and eyes-off. There are legitimate safety questions about autopilots and driver responsibility, but these questions dont apply to truck platooning.

    While platooning, the driver experience is basically the same as with today’s Adaptive Cruise Control systems, but at inter-vehicle distances of 50-100 feet. Since platooning builds on commercially available Collision Mitigation Systems, platoon-enabled trucks will likely be safer than most other trucks on the road, even when not platooning.

    Somehow the Governor missed these key points and, in my opinion, has taken a step backwards with regard to truck safety.

    The TMC Task Force has studied these issues in some depth, which TMC published as an Information Report and a Position Paper last year. These can be found at

    If I can be a resource to you on any future stories of this sort, just let me know. Please note: with this comment I am not speaking for TMC, only myself.


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