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Virginia to Open Autonomous Technology Center

The center will serve as a testing facility for autonomous technology across sectors, but based on recent actions by the government, the center could put a priority on autonomous vehicle development.

On May 11, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe promised that automation would be a cornerstone of the commonwealth’s new economy.

“Over the past three years, we’ve made tremendous progress to support this emerging industry, and we’ll continue our efforts to cut red-tape and open the door for further growth,” he said in a release announcing the launch of the Autonomous Systems Center of Excellence (ASCE).

The center will be operated by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), a nonprofit corporation focused on creating technology-based economic development strategies to accelerate innovation. The ASCE will function as both a development and deployment system of all aspects of the autonomous systems industry. The announcement was made during the Xponential event held by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. 

The center also will operate as an advocate for the autonomous industry within the state. Virginia has already gotten started in the autonomy sector through its 2013 partnership with the FAA.

Per the release, Virginia ranks consistently among the top 10 of states positioned to reap the largest economic benefit from the onset of autonomous technology.

“Virginia has already established itself as a leader in the autonomous systems industry,” said Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson in the release. “... It is essential that we create an epicenter that drives collaboration, facilitates information sharing, and provides streamlined access to all of our world-class assets”.

While not expressly mentioning autonomous vehicles, the new center may focus on the burgeoning technology. McAuliffe recently expressed his desire for Virginia to become “the capital of automated vehicles,” according to  The  Washington Post.

As states race toward autonomy and hope to get out in front of the disruptive technology, McAuliffe said he believes a mix of a well-educated workforce and lack of government regulations will propel his state as a leader of the pack. The state has chosen to create minimal regulations for the young industry in hopes that the open slate will attract manufacturers.

“There are no local regulations at all. We do not have state regulations. The industry is too new, and I don’t want us writing laws that could stifle innovation,” he said while delivering the event keynote. 

The opening of the ASCE will hopefully continue Virginia’s development as a hub of autonomous vehicles.

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.