Texas forms task force to promote autonomous vehicles

Source: Smart Cities Dive | Jason Plautz | Jan. 28, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has announced the creation of the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Task Force, a one-stop shop for information and coordination on all pilots and investments in the state.

  • The task force will coordinate work already being done through the Texas Technology Task Force and the Texas Innovation Alliance, and will host industry forums and reports to encourage greater collaboration for autonomous vehicles (AVs).

  • It comes less than two years after Texas lawmakers passed a 2017 bill allowing self-driving cars to operate on roads and public rights-of-way.

Dive Insight:

Texas has tried to position itself as one of the nation’s leaders in autonomous technology. Google’s Waymo has been testing in Austin, TX including what the company said was the world’s first truly autonomous ride when a blind driver rode in a Waymo car through the city’s suburbs. Meanwhile, autonomous shuttle company Drive.ai has launched Texas-based pilots in Frisco and Arlington. Austin has also tried to be forward-thinking about how autonomous cars will transform the city, establishing an assistant director for smart mobility position and partnering with INRIX on a pilot to collect data on connected infrastructure.

Jason JonMichael, Austin's assistant director of smart mobility, told Smart Cities Dive last year that part of his job was to keep up with the “blistering rate” of innovation in the public sector. "There’s a gap in the civic side, in the public-sector side, related to subject matter expertise in this area," he said at the time. The new state task force will help further close that gap, and give companies a central place to look for guidance on rules and funding.

Other states involved in the AV race have also tried to centralize and coordinate authority. Arizona, for example, opened an Institute of Automated Mobility — with input from universities, state government and industry — to organize testing and research authority, while California and Virginia have also opened their own testing facilities. As the industry continues to evolve without defined federal regulations, states are working to create friendly regulatory environments to attract the industry, while exploring safety rules. Texas' new task force will help keep it in the mix as more tech companies and automakers seek testing venues.

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Chelsea Collier