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Texas opens the floodgates for testing autonomous cars

(TECH NEWS) Approval has officially been granted to allow the testing of autonomous vehicle technologies in the Lone Star State. When will testing get underway, and how long until we see them on the long stretches of Texas highway?

autonomous cars driverless

The future has been approved

The state of Texas recently took a significant step forward towards approval of automated vehicles on its roadways. With the recent agreement between the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), approval has been granted to allow the testing of automated vehicle technologies that have been proven in a lab-setting on the more than 80,000 miles of roadways in the state.

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Partnering with other deparments

“We are rapidly moving into a new world of transportation that will include cars communicating with other cars and cars that drive themselves,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said. “As the transportation industry is on the leading edge of this transformation, testing is vital in real driving environments. We’re excited to be part of that along with Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to make sure those technologies are tested in the safest possible ways.”

Such a partnership to test technology in a real-world driving environment is common. TxDOT routinely partners with TTI and other universities throughout the state to review, test, and enact proposed improvements to highway conditions throughout the state. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute is allowed to test not only any automated vehicles or related technologies that it may design, but also those developed by other partners, including industrial ventures or other universities.

Timeframe for testing

Once a technology is deemed suitable for road testing, TTI will inform TxDOT, and the two will jointly collaborate on a plan for testing that includes the specific technology under test, previous results from both laboratory and controlled test trials, and the location and duration of the Texas highway test. An additional component of their testing protocols also addresses the conditions by which the technology can be safely piloted under road conditions among other drivers on Texas’ highways.

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The timeframe for real-world testing may occur in the near future as there are already several research projects from multiple entities that are close to completion. For example, TxDOT currently has five different research projects under evaluation at the TTI Proving Ground, and Texas A&M joined other partners, including the University of Texas at Austin, the Southwest Research Institute, and municipalities across the state to form the Texas Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground Partnership in December. This partnership allows the members to pool their expertise and resources to collaboratively advance connected vehicle and automated vehicle technologies.

Rise of auto autonomy

“Those technologies range from detection of wrong way drivers, to new pavement markings and signs that can be read by automated vehicles,” said TTI Assistant Agency Director Christopher Poe, the Institute’s CV/AV transportation strategy lead. “Working with TxDOT, the first real-world technology testing plans under this agreement could begin within months.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the number of states that have addressed autonomous vehicles through legislation have continued to rise. Since 2012, 34 states as well as the District of Columbia, have proposed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, including 20 states in 2016 alone.

#AutonomousCars

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Written By

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

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