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Brook Park, Ohio, Eyes Autonomous Vehicle Testing Proposal

Officials in the city are considering a memorandum of agreement with DriveOhio that would pave the way for private companies to begin testing autonomous vehicles in certain parts of the city.

(TNS) — Brook Park City Council is considering whether to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with DriveOhio that could lead to companies testing self-driving vehicles on community roads.

At the recommendation of the city’s Technology and Innovation Committee, Councilman Brian Poindexter initiated discussions during the Nov. 10 council caucus.

DriveOhio is “a one-stop shop for those looking to develop, test, and deploy advanced mobility solutions in Ohio,” according to its website.

“This would put Brook Park on a very short list of communities that will allow companies who test autonomous vehicles and different types of transportation technology to use certain areas of our city for those testing purposes,” Poindexter told council, noting he would like an ordinance passed before DriveOhio finalizes its 2021 project list in December. “We would probably be the first city in the northern part of the state that would allow for the testing.”

If Brook Park becomes a testing site, city officials would notify residents about the areas in which the vehicles would travel. It’s likely less populated west-end locations, such as Aerospace Parkway and State Route 237/Brookpark Road, would be preferred routes.

“Each testing case will have a specific set of parameters,” Poindexter said. “If we don’t like the testing company that comes forward with its idea, we say no. Details of a particular project would have to be worked out. We still have the final say.”

Councilman Tom Troyer asked about liability, and Law Director Carol Horvath indicated it probably would lie with the testing companies. She said she will confirm coverage with Brook Park’s insurance company.

“This (vehicle testing) does seem a little dangerous, especially for a city like Brook Park,” Councilman Ed Orcutt said. “We have 50-foot frontages. I’m a little apprehensive about this … and would like to do a little more research.”

Council President Mike Vecchio cited the accident rate for autonomous vehicles versus human-operated cars as almost two to one, though he said mishaps tend to be less serious because autonomous vehicles are programmed to obey traffic laws.

“I would feel much safer if we mandate a human has to be in the autonomous vehicle,” Vecchio said.

Poindexter plans to introduce legislation for the Memorandum of Agreement at council’s Nov. 17 meeting.

©2020 The Plain Dealer, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.