AUTOMATED VEHICLES: NHTSA grants Calif. agency permission to test AVs on public roads
The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) in California received permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test shared autonomous vehicles (AVs) on public roads within the 600-acre Bishop Ranch business park.
The park is where CCTA is leading a pilot demonstration project operating electric, low-speed, multi-passenger AVs that are not equipped with a steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator or operator.
Authorized by California Assembly Bill 1592, CCTA is positioned to be the first to devise and fully implement an AV and transit pilot program of this kind in the United States where AVs will be sharing the road with drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
In March 2017, CCTA, GoMentum Station, Bishop Ranch and EasyMile announced the second phase of testing for the EasyMile shared AVs at the Bishop Ranch business park in San Ramon, Calif.
“We had a three-phased approach to our test program,” Randy Iwasaki, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, told Traffic & Transit. “The first phase was to test at GoMentum station, the largest secure autonomous-vehicle test facility in the United States. It’s also one of the 10 U.S. DOT autonomous-vehicle proving grounds. And so we did the testing there to show that the sensors and the precision-based mapping—all the components and systems—are following the maps and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. And so the second phase, which started a few months ago, was to test at an abandoned parking lot—one that’s like the one that’s active with cars moving around, people moving around and bicycles.”
Advancing to the third phase of testing—which includes operating on public roads within the business park—entails obtaining permission from both NHTSA and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). CCTA staff are in active discussions with the DMV to provide the information required by state statute and secure permission for this next phase on the pilot program. According to Linsey Willis, CCTA director of external affairs, should the DMV give their permission soon, the AV tests could be seen on public roads as early as next year.