New York becomes latest testbed for self-driving vehicles

If you really want to see how autonomous vehicles cope with traffic chaos, NYC is the place.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

New York is now accepting applications from vendors interested in testing autonomous vehicles in the city's traffic.

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo revealed that NYC is willing to hear from companies that wish to test or demonstrate self-driving cars on public roads, with a particular emphasis on year-long pilot projects.

According to the governor, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles has come up with new legislation permitting the tests, which city officials hope will put the concrete jungle on the map as "the epicenter of cutting-edge technology and innovation."

"With this action, we are taking a careful yet balanced approach to incorporating autonomous vehicles on our roads to reduce dangerous driving habits, decrease the number of accidents and save lives on New York roadways," Governor Cuomo said.

Interested parties which are manufacturers of "autonomous vehicle technology" or are working with these kinds of vendors have to submit an application to be considered, and must also agree to adhere to New York State federal safety standards.

However, autonomous vehicles will not be given completely free rein on New York roads, which are bumper-to-bumper and chaotic at the best of times.

Instead, vendors must agree to have a qualified driver in the driver's seat at all times in case something goes wrong, and a $5 million insurance policy must be set in place. Each vehicle involved in tests must also be registered.

"While we all are familiar with the idea that self-driving cars will one day likely be commonplace, the reality is that there is a long road ahead before we get there," DMV executive deputy commissioner Terri Egan said. "We need to make sure these vehicles are safely tested on our roads while providing opportunities for the public to become familiar with this technology. This is a balanced approach consistent with New York's long track record of highway safety as well as innovation."

The budget is now in place, allowing New York to join Nevada, Arizona, and California, where vendors including Google's Waymo are already testing out self-driving vehicles on public roads.

In total, over 30 states have introduced legislation related to the new technology and the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has introduced new guidelines taking into account autonomous vehicles.

However, with such a political, legislative, and safety minefield to navigate when introducing new transport on roads used by the public, testing approval has been slow.

Despite regulatory delays, vendors including Waymo, Uber, and Tesla are all pushing forward with research and development to carve themselves a dominant position in an industry which is likely to be huge. Waymo, for example, has now clocked over 2.5 million miles of self-driving car travel, and recently opened up the fleet to the public for feedback and further tests.

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