Self-driving vehicles could hit Texas highways soon

exas Department of Transportation and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute automated vehicle testing map_403077

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Self-driving cars operating on major highways in Texas isn’t happening yet, but you’ll probably see technology being tested on our busy freeways pretty soon.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) recently co-signed a Memorandum of Understanding spelling out the guidelines that would allow TTI to begin testing connected and automated vehicle technologies on state highways. Before any automated vehicles hit the pavement, TTI will need to develop a plan with TxDOT that details the technology that will be tested, how it performed in previous laboratory tests, where it will be tested and for how long.

“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.”

Five separate TxDOT research projects are currently being evaluated by TTI and will be ready for real-world testing soon, although no dates have been set.

“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.”

Last week, the city of Austin, in collaboration with Texas’ largest cities and research institutions, was jointly designated an official U.S. Department of Transportation Automated Vehicle Proving Ground for safe testing and deployment of new self-driving vehicle technologies. The Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership was one of 10 selected sites from more than 60 applicants nationwide.

Recently, Google revealed that one of its self-driving cars traversed Austin roads without a test driver on board in 2015. While someone was technically behind the wheel, Google said the “driver” was legally blind.

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