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Pennsylvania Develops Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force

The task force met Wednesday for the first time in Pittsburgh to talk about how it will shape the state’s approach to autonomous vehicles.

by Jared Stonesifer, Beaver County Times, Pa. / June 2, 2016

(TNS) -- PITTSBURGH -- A newly-developed task force has formed that will shape policy and research into self-driving autonomous vehicles.

The task force is comprised of PennDOT officials as well as state and local politicians, industry stakeholders, educational institutions and other transportation officials.

Called the Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force, the group met Wednesday for the first time in Pittsburgh to talk about how it will shape the state’s approach to autonomous vehicles.

The task force will work closely with officials from Carnegie Mellon University, which for 30 years has been working to ensure self-driving cars will be “safe, affordable and ultimately, accepted by the public,” according to a news release from PennDOT.

The university has already created 14 generations of self-driving cars, including the most recent version that is capable of driving 70 mph by itself.

The task force is also comprised of state politicians who have sponsored legislation that will foster innovation while also ensuring the safety of drivers.

According to the PennDOT release, that legislation would provide guidelines for controlled automated vehicle testing while also requiring companies to provide proof of $5 million in liability insurance before they test new technology.

State Rep. Jim Marshall, R-14, Big Beaver, is a subcommittee chairman for transportation safety in the House of Representatives and a sponsor of the forthcoming legislation.

According to the PennDOT release, Marshall said “with matters of public safety, we must be proactive, not reactive.”

“This important legislation will get Pennsylvania out in front of this new and evolving technology,” Marshall said.

State Sen. John Rafferty, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, agreed with Marshall and said autonomous vehicles represent “the next generation of our transportation system.”

That’s why new legislation is important, Rafferty said, to ensure the new technology provides “safety, mobility, innovation and economic development.”

PennDOT said it’s decided to get behind the new technology because it has both “environmental and travel benefits in addition to reducing human error in driving.”

“We are always looking at ways to make travel safer, and these new vehicle technologies offer a huge opportunity to not only advance our network, but also reduce human behavior as a factor in crashes,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said. “We’re looking forward to expanding on the innovation that’s already alive and well here in Pittsburgh so companies can test their technologies in our state’s varied seasons and roadway types.”

PennDOT mentioned that automated technology could also provide a significant opportunity for elderly or disabled drivers who could use the technology.

There will be an estimated 48 million people over the age of 75 by 2050, PennDOT said, so the time is now to invest in and study this new technology.

©2016 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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