How US States Jumped on the Autonomous Bandwagon in 2018

While California and Arizona continue to lead the US in autonomous vehicle development, other states, ranging from Rhode Island to Florida, spent the last 12 months trying to initiate themselves in self-driving vehicle programs and cash in on the future of driving.

In only the past several weeks, for example, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) picked May Mobility to run an automated vehicle program in the Ocean State.

May Mobility, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based startup, was selected through a competitive request-for-proposals process that started earlier this year.

In addition, four Ohio cities announced in early December that they would serve as testing grounds for autonomous and connected vehicle technology.

Columbus, Athens, Dublin and Marysville have signed agreements with DriveOhio to test autonomous and connected vehicles, as well as other smart city infrastructure within their respective borders.

The work will be carried out under the aegis of DriveOhio and Gov. John Kasich’s Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program.

In June, German auto giant Daimler announced it was opening an automated truck research and development center in Portland, Ore., which is designing automated driving platforms for the company’s bus and truck division.

At the start of the year, the nation’s capital also brought out big plans to bring autonomous vehicles to Washington’s streets: The city’s mayor announced a new agency that will help prepare the city, its residents as well as the streets, for autonomous vehicle testing and other developments.

The Interagency AV Working Group is made up of representatives from other city agencies that focus on transportation, disability rights, environmental issues and public safety.

In April, the cash-strapped state of Connecticut took steps to join the countrywide race to allow testing of AVs on its roads with the launch of the Fully Autonomous Vehicle Testing Pilot Program (FAVTPP).

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.

Meanwhile, the John S and James L Knight Foundation announced in September that it is spending $5.25 million on AV pilot projects in the cities of Long Beach and San Jose, Calif., Detroit, Miami and Pittsburgh.

The organization says the aim of the projects is “to develop people-centered smart cities,” as part of its mission to use technology to improve community relations.

A September report from transportation analytics specialist Inrix that looked at truck traffic routes in the US found that Florida and California would benefit the most from the expanded deployment of autonomous trucks.

The most ideal corridor for initial deployment is Interstate 5 (I-5) running from the Canadian border to Northern California – a route that scored highest due to its length and its high traffic incident rate.

California and Arizona are still widely considered the leaders in the AV development field. A recent partnership between Sacramento and a vehicle communications software provider is hoping to bring Level 5 autonomous vehicles to the streets of California’s capital city.

In Arizona, Waymo is officially launching the nation’s first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle ride-sharing service. While it will only be available to certain passengers in the cities of TempeMesa and Chandler, they will have 24-hour access to it.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.


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