Autonomous Vehicle Pilots Around the U.S.: A Look at the Proving Grounds

We’re moving closer to a time when we’ll start seeing self-driving vehicles becoming ubiquitous on our roadways. While the timetable on when this occurs keeps being adjusted based on testing, you can expect to start seeing them in select places soon.

Many proving grounds were recently chosen to test autonomous vehicles around the U.S. These are going to become places where self-driving cars use safe environments to test best driving practices and share information among selected cities.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently compiled a list of places after 60 state applicants tried to join the fray. Read on for some cities and states where these autonomous vehicle pilots are about to take place.

The Larson Institute in Pittsburgh

This was one of the first cities chosen in the new proving ground program. It’s a collaboration between Penn State’s Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute and the city of Pittsburgh.

One reason for the collaboration is Penn State already had a track record working with their home city on various innovative automotive technologies. While they both applied separately for this program, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation thought it advantageous for them to work together again.

The partnership plans to aid in improving personal and commercial mobility as well as helping more people with life disadvantages.

Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership

Thanks to Texas’s positive business climate and their geographic diversity, they managed to land on the list of proving ground cities. It’s yet another partnership with universities, this time three of them. Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the University of Texas, and Southwest Research Institute are all working together with the city to make this happen.

Basically, they’ll all be providing a network of proving grounds and test-bed sites throughout the state. Cities from Austin to El Paso are all contributing various locales to assure a safe environment for testing.

American Center for Mobility at Willow Run in Detroit, Michigan

With Detroit being the true hub of manufacturing cars, it’s apropos they were chosen as another autonomous vehicle proving ground. This partnership is through the American Center for Mobility (ACA) and a very historical site for technology: Willow Run.

If you’re not familiar with this location, it’s where Henry Ford worked on airplane manufacturing during World War II. Later, it became a facility for General Motors in producing cars.

Now it’s being refurbished to become a new testing site for self-driving cars. It brings the irony of car history full circle in a time when autonomous vehicles could change how we view driving.

San Diego Association of Governments

California also has some involvement in the proving grounds. San Diego has become the top city to participate based on their technology expertise and superior highway systems. It’s through the latter where autonomous cars are going to get tested in real-world scenarios.

To make self-driving cars a viable technology, they need some driving tests in carpool lanes, bus lanes, and other traffic areas. Part of this is going to include surface streets in Chula Vista.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority

These proving grounds cover the entire nation, and North Carolina became one of the southern states within the ten states selected. More specifically, they’ll be using the state’s Interstate 540 Triangle Expressway toll road as the official testing place.

The testing on this 19-mile toll road won’t start until the first of the year, but it’s an important step toward seeing how self-driving vehicles operate on highways and longer stretches of road. At the moment, they haven’t decided whether these autonomous car tests would take place in traffic or if they’ll create road closures.

GM Testing in New York City

Even the Big Apple is involved in these programs. New York City is going to partner with GM’s autonomous vehicle arm Cruise Automation to test the latter’s Chevy Bolts through Manhattan’s congested traffic.

Both have mapped out a geofenced area for testing, including placing engineers inside the car to monitor all driving activities. A police escort is also taking place to assure safety.

It’s part of the race to fit within the state law requirement to test self-driving cars before the April 2018 deadline.

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