New York approves self-driving car tests on public roads

Ford autonomous car development

Ford autonomous car development

Long an avid opponent of driverless cars, thanks to its law requiring drivers to keep one hand on the steering wheel at all times, the state of New York has approved the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

According to a report by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, a new measure in the state’s budget removes the aforementioned restriction on keeping at least one hand on the wheel for self-driving cars. The budget has passed the state Senate and Assembly and only needs to be signed by the governor. When it is it will make New York the latest state–following California, Arizona, Michigan, and others–to allow driverless cars on public roads. Testing will require state police supervision as part of the resolution and a licensed driver will have to be in the car when it’s on the road.

Unlike some states, though, New York will allow any company to apply for a DMV permit to begin testing vehicles. Bills in other states restrict applications to established automakers, which excludes companies like Uber and other Silicon Valley start-ups.

The approval comes as a shock to some after various New York City officials expressed concerns over the vehicles’ ability to navigate complex urban environments. Those concerns have only been heightened after a self-driving Uber vehicle caused a collision in Arizona. The ride-sharing company, which tapped Volvo for its prototypes, has since halted testing in the state for the time being.

New York’s testing period will begin immediately and expire in April of 2018. Following the testing period, officials and state police will compile a report about its findings in June of 2018, likely to evaluate extending the testing period.

The chance to deploy self-driving vehicles creates a substantial opportunity for automakers and technology companies alike. The data collected from the state, which ranks as the fourth most populous in the country, will be paramount in refining the cars’ behavior. Not to mention, it’s a chance to see how these vehicles behave when conditions aren’t exactly 75 degrees and sunny, like some west coast states’ climates.

One day, though, we may not even be looking at the streets as the playground for autonomous vehicles. A number of autonomous, flying taxi drones are in development as you read this.

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