Brookline, Mass., Joins Coalition of Cities Open to Public AV Testing

Several cities and towns surrounding Boston have agreed to designate areas to test self-driving vehicles. Brookline could see the technology on the road as early as 2019.

by Nick Greenhalgh, Wicked Local Metro / June 27, 2018

(TNS) — A new type of vehicle could be tested on the Brookline streets as soon as next year.

The big difference with these vehicles? They won't have a driver.

On June 21, Brookline joined a group of metro-Boston cities and towns that agreed to designate areas for testing self-driving cars.

As part of the agreement, these cities and towns will work with state officials to develop a universal application for companies seeking to try out the new technology on public streets before the end of the year.

Brookline Town Administrator Mel Kleckner said the town was approached by the governor to join the program along with the other Boston area communities.

Kleckner said the town saw the benefits in being a part of the testing.

"I think we're interested in the technology and see that the technology will someday be in Brookline," he said.

In addition to Brookline, the agreement covers Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Cambridge, Chelsea, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Revere, Somerville, Weymouth, Winthrop and Worcester, along with the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

"This agreement will allow companies to responsibly develop and test autonomous vehicle technology in Massachusetts, while ensuring there are uniform safety guidelines in place," Gov. Charlie Baker stated.

The governor took a ride in the back seat of a self-driving car June 21 as part of an event in the Seaport where he announced the agreement. Both he and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack arrived at the event in autonomous vehicles, according to MassDOT.

Kleckner estimated that the cars could begin testing sometime in 2019, but not before the proposals were properly vetted by the town.

"We have control of the time of day and specific locations for testing," he said. "I'm sure we'll start slow and limited."

Kleckner said as part of the testing protocol, one safety driver and one engineer will be in each vehicle at all times.

The agreement with the 14 metro-Boston communities and Worcester calls for cities and towns to within six months "identify approved testing locations for at least one Testing Phase," with the idea that "MassDOT and the Participants shall endeavor to identify diverse driving environments and contiguous cross-border testing routes."

The 15 municipalities will also work with MassDOT on a universal Application to Test Autonomous Vehicles on Public Ways by the end of the year, and the agreement requires MassDOT to work with the communities on updates to the application and testing phase as appropriate.

Kleckner said transportation doesn't stop at town boundaries and this regional model should prove as an effective testing ground.

"We feel on a region-wide basis this is a good model to test and experiment with transportation strategies, so we felt it was our obligation," he said.

©2018 Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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