Federal regulators are in dire need of a “patchwork” of state rules to attempt to govern a technology that’s still in the midst of being developed. The advances are happening so fast the public can’t understand it, so Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has called for more efforts to strengthen guidelines for driverless vehicles.
During the International Technical Conference on Enhanced Safety of Vehicles in Detroit, she also challenged companies in the business of developing autonomous vehicles to provide more information about their technology to the public as regulators make those decisions. “The innovators need to speak up and help the rest of our population understand,” Chao said.
The need for self-driving vehicles goes without saying. The National Highway Safety Administration reported 40,200 people died in traffic accidents in 2016. These fatalities made last year the deadliest year on American roads in close to a decade, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists.
By 2025, each and every passenger auto is expected to be a connected car. In 2023, all new cars will come fully loaded with vehicle-to-vehicle technology enabling dynamic wireless exchange of data between nearby vehicles.
While it’s easy to immediately envision Silicon Valley’s or New England’s engineering masterminds steadily pioneering our future of driving, you may be surprised to see where the next major steps towards a driverless nation are taking place.
The friendly fight between states is on. Just a few months ago, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a package of automaker-backed bills allowing the testing of vehicles without steering wheels, pedals, or needed human control. This bill alone could propel Michigan lightyears beyond California’s driverless car development dreams.
As automotive and tech companies expand their research facilities, the U.S. Department of Transportation is also augmenting its autonomous and connected vehicle technology development. In January USDOT announced 10 automated vehicle proving ground test sites that will form a “Community of Practice” to advance safer, smarter driving throughout the nation.Take a look at just where the next transit tech could emerge
- Madison, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory will soon lead tests on Madison’s roads, Wisconsin highways, throughout their campus, and at Epic Systems’ nearby headquarters. All will provide realistically interactive situations for driverless vehicles.
- San Diego, California
San Diego Association of Governments announced the 30 miles of express, carpool, and bus lanes it has built may double as testing grounds for driverless cars. SANDAG is set to spend $21.2 billion by 2050 building 160 more miles of those lanes. Supporters include Caltrans, the city of Chula Vista, Qualcomm, Faraday Future, and more.
- Phoenix, Arizona
Waymo is at the helm of commercializing Google’s self-driving research. The company selected Phoenix for the first large-scale public test of their self-driving cars. Down the line, the company will seek to integrate robotic vehicles into hundreds of residents’ daily lives.
- Iowa City, Iowa
Unlike other proving grounds, the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor features a variety of different climates, road users, and roadway landscapes, including the nation’s largest and most expansive simulated virtual proving ground at the National Advanced Driving Simulator. Iowa DOT, HERE of North America, UI, and Iowa State University announced their collaboration in transforming a section of I-380 that connects Iowa City and Cedar Rapids into a data-rich corridor to aid development of advanced vehicle technologies.
- Township, Michigan
Just a few miles outside of Ann Arbor is the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run. The purpose-built facility tests, develops, and validates connected and automated tech, all while accelerating development of voluntary industry standards, workforce, and public education.
- Orlando, Florida
SunTrax is set to be Florida’s premier self-driving test track for cutting-edge transportation technology. Florida Turnpike Enterprise’s 2.25-mile course partners with University of Central Florida, Florida Polytechnic University for research, and Florida A&M University Colleges of Law for safety and policy compliance. NASA Kennedy Space Center will act as the second controlled testing facility.
- Concord, California
Go-Mentum Station is the largest secure testing facility for autonomous and connected vehicle technology in the U.S. The facility hosts Honda prototype tests, Otto’s self-driving trucks, and EasyMile’s first publicly-accessible electric shuttles in the nation.
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
Heard of M City? University of Michigan’s 23-acre mini city was built exclusively for testing driverless car technology. The latest Toyota lab near the University of Michigan joins locations in Cambridge and Palo Alto—and their partners at Stanford University and MIT—on a revolutionary quest to build crash-free cars. Among other cutting-edge projects nearby, the U.S. Army will test run a convoy of autonomous trucks.
- Raleigh, North Carolina
“The North Carolina Turnpike Authority, with its world-class facility, partnerships and research, is proud to serve as a designated automated vehicle proving ground. We are committed to ensuring the safety of the traveling public and the state’s roadways as we test this technology,” proclaimed Acting Transportation Secretary Mike Holder.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Penn State’s Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute has been working with Pittsburgh over the last couple years to advance automotive tech, including the Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities As an official USDOT-designated proving ground, the region will only encourage more innovation and better safety.
- Aberdeen, Maryland
Near the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay, a portion of Interstate 95 is slated to become a proving ground for self-driving cars. The United States Army Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) is located about 65 miles from Washington, D.C. While the bill was not passed, the Maryland General Assembly had proactively crafted legislation to accelerate autonomous cars’ safe testing and operation on highways earlier this year.
- Providence, Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation issued a RFI from companies involved in connected/autonomous vehicle (CAV) tech to help the state emerge as a “leader in developing the transportation system of the future.” RhodeWorks seeks to bring their bridges to 90 percent sufficiency within 10 years—without doing so, only half of the state’s bridges will be structurally sufficient by 2025.