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The City of Boston Expanding Driverless Car Testing Project

  • Post category:Blogs
boston driverless cars

Driverless cars have returned to the roads of Boston after a brief shutdown to review safety standards following the death of a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., and the city of Boston will expand its testing project.

The city has been working with self-driving car company nuTonomy, which has been testing autonomous vehicles in the Seaport since January 2017 under the supervision of Boston officials, after initially trying out the cars within the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Industrial Park.

The testing will be citywide from now on, the officials say.

It’s important to mention that in March, Massachusetts officials have delayed a plan to expand testing in the region.

NuTonomy Inc. and Optimus Ride, two Boston-based companies testing the technology in the Seaport District, took a break at the request of city officials, who sought to better understand the companies’ safety procedures after the Uber crash.

Since the accident, Uber has kept its self-driving cars off the road in Arizona, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and California. After that, Arizona, which has loudly championed a low-regulation environment for driverless companies, ordered Uber to keep its program halted in the wake of the death. Uber has also said it will not seek to extend its permit to test in California after it expires.

But Boston companies are working on driverless cars again.

But in Boston, NuTonomy and Optimus Ride got the green light to resume operations from city officials the following Tuesday. The companies began testing the technology here last year, and nuTonomy offers a ride to some members of the public through a partnership with the ride-hailing firm Lyft. Neither company has reported any incidents from their Boston tests.

“We have met with our partners, nuTonomy, and Optimus Ride, to review the testing policies and procedures that are mandatory components of the City of Boston’s program. With this safety review complete, Boston will allow autonomous-vehicle testing to resume,” said Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca.

NuTonomy declined to comment beyond confirming resumption of its testing. Optimus Ride did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, state officials were originally scheduled to sign a new agreement with a coalition of several Boston suburbs that would allow companies to apply to test self-driving vehicles on their streets. The deal will wait until at least late April.

Among other standards, the Boston tests require a driver to be seated in the front seat at all times to take control of the car as needed.

Arizona allowed companies to conduct tests without a so-called safety driver. But in the Tempe incident, a driver was in the front seat when the car hit the pedestrian.

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