DOT designates 10 new U.S. proving grounds for self-driving cars

The areas will also be used to explore big data generated by car computers

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has designated 10 new locations around the country to act as proving grounds for self-driving vehicle technology.

The test sites will allow automakers and companies that create sensors, cameras and other technology for autonomous vehicles to conduct pilots and offer researchers insights into how best to use the data that comes from automated vehicle testing.

"The designated proving grounds will collectively form a Community of Practice around safe testing and deployment," DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed, enabling the participants and the general public to learn at a faster rate and accelerating the pace of safe deployment."

The proving grounds were selected from locations submitted by 60 applicants,  including academic institutions, state departments of transportation, cities, private entities and partnerships.

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A Ford self-driving prototype being tested at the University of Michigan's Mcity proving grounds.

Proving ground designees all have different facilities that can be used to gauge safety, manage various roadways and conditions, and handle different types of vehicles, the DOT said.

Ford, GM and other companies developing autonomous driving technology have been using Michigan's Mcity, a 32-acre, full-scale simulated real-world urban environment where vehicles self-drive in every condition, including snow.

Michigan is also home to the largest deployment of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) electronic communications technology in its Smart Corridor. The corridor is a series of public highways -- more than 120 miles in all -- in Southeast Michigan that have more than 100 Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) transponder units. The DSRC units share traffic information with cars and trucks that have V2I and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology and alert drivers to potential problems to prevent accidents.

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A Google self-driving car navigates streets near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, on June 29, 2015.

Several states and Washington D.C. have passed autonomous vehicle legislation that allows for testing of the cars and trucks on public roadways. Since 2012, at least 34 states and D.C. have considered legislation related to autonomous vehicles.

In September, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued guidelines for autonomous vehicles that included a checklist for carmakers  developing the technology, as well as guidelines for states on creating a common framework for regulating self-driving cars and trucks.

"We have issued record recalls. We still have too many people dying on our roadways. We have too many moms and dads stuck in traffic losing productive time with their families," Foxx said in September when the DOT announced the first federal policy on automated vehicles. "And in the 50 years of the U.S. [DOT], there has never been a moment like this..., a moment where we can build a culture of safety as a new transportation technology emerges."

The new proving grounds are:

  • City of Pittsburgh and the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute
  • Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership
  • U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center
  • American Center for Mobility (ACM) at Willow Run
  • Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) & GoMentum Station
  • San Diego Association of Governments
  • Iowa City Area Development Group
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners
  • North Carolina Turnpike Authority

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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