Connecticut Latest to Join Race to Test AVs

The Governor announced up to four municipalities could be selected for the pilot program if their applications to allow testing of fully autonomous vehicles are approved.

The cash-strapped state of Connecticut took steps to join the countrywide race to allow testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on its roads through a pilot program unveiled by Governor Dannel Malloy.

The launch of Connecticut’s Fully Autonomous Vehicle Testing Pilot Program (FAVTPP) — an initiative created by legislation Malloy signed into law last year — includes strict standards on testing, with limited and controlled testing areas.

Under terms of the program, towns and cities interested in allowing the testing of fully autonomous vehicles can submit an application to the state, which has decided to allow up to four municipalities to participate.

“Make no mistake, autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation, whether it is people looking for a safer and easier commute, more efficient and cheaper commercial transit, more precise ride-sharing and for-hire services or beyond,” the governor said in a statement.

The pilot program is designed to demonstrate Connecticut’s commitment to the AV industry and its eagerness to promote the development of these types of technologies, Malloy said.

“These vehicles are going to be part of our lives soon and we want to take proactive steps to have our state be at the forefront of this innovative technology,” he added. “We cannot allow our state to be outpaced as this technology grows.”

Interested municipalities can submit applications to the program, administered by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) in consultation with the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation and other government agencies, on the OPM’s website.

An additional document describes the minimum requirements interested municipalities and AV testers must agree to before being approved for participation in the pilot program.

The Nutmeg State is the latest addition to a growing list of states moving forward with self-driving vehicle testing, even as Arizona — a hotbed of AV testing — deals with the fallout from a fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber vehicle.

Indeed, analysts say that fatal accident will have wide-ranging implications for autonomous vehicle regulation and development; some advocacy groups are even calling for an autonomous vehicle test ban following the March accident.

In February, Connecticut neighbor Massachusetts held a statehouse briefing about AVs to explore the concerns and benefits surrounding the concept of introducing self-driving vehicles to the state’s roads. That same month, an Indiana state senate committee took testimony on legislation to regulate self-driving vehicles.

In March, Ford and Miami-Dade County, Florida, announced a partnership to test AVs on the streets of Miami and Miami Beach, whereas California is taking a relatively cautious approach with its rules for driverless cars.

On April 6, the California Public Utilities Commission proposed pilot programs to allow free rides in driverless test cars either with or without human backup drivers.

While the plan would complement regulations that took effect this month allowing fully driverless cars, a recent survey of California residents (released April 10) suggests consumers have serious concerns about the safety of self-driving cars.

In fact, 58% of respondents said driverless cars should not be allowed in their neighborhoods, and 57% reported that they would feel either “unsafe” or “very unsafe” getting into a driverless car, the survey found. Only 28% would feel “safe” or “very safe,” according to the poll.

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