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New York is Accepting Applications for Autonomous Vehicle Testing

The state budget included legislation that will allow companies to test driverless cars through April 1.

by Matthew Hamilton, Times Union, Albany, N.Y. / May 11, 2017
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(TNS) -- Cue the "Knight Rider" theme — autonomous cars are one step closer to joining New York roads.

The state is now accepting applications from companies interested in testing or demonstrating autonomous vehicles on public roads, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration announced on Wednesday.

The state budget included legislation that will allow companies to test driverless cars through April 1, 2018.

"New York has emerged as one of the nation's leading hubs for innovation, and as we invite companies and entrepreneurs to re-imagine transportation technology, we will encourage the development of new, safe-travel options for New Yorkers," Cuomo, a noted gearhead, said in a statement. "With this action, we are taking a careful yet balanced approach to incorporating autonomous vehicles on our roads to reduce dangerous driving habits, decrease the number of accidents and save lives on New York roadways."

Under the law, tests of driverless technology must be conducted under the watchful eye of the State Police. There must be an actual person who holds a valid drivers license in the driver's seat during testing.

Also, vehicles used in testing must have a $5 million insurance policy.

However, when and — more importantly — if driverless cars will become widespread on roads isn't clear.

After the one-year testing period ends, the state Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner will be required to submit a report on the testing by June 1, 2018.

Under current state Vehicle and Traffic Law, vehicle operators must have at least one hand or prosthetic device on the steering wheel at all times when the vehicle is in motion. The budget language supersedes that law to allow the testing.

Legislation to allow the use of self-driving technology passed the state Senate last year but went nowhere in the Assembly. That legislation, which would let anyone use a self-driving automobile on the road, was reintroduced in both houses and currently is awaiting committee action.

New York is one of thirteen states to have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The governors of Arizona and Massachusetts have issued executive orders related to driverless vehicles.

©2017 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.