AUTOMATED VEHICLES: Google to test self-driving cars in Phoenix

April 8, 2016

The Arizona metropolis is another in the tech giant’s series of AV test beds

Google has deployed four modified Lexus SUVs in Phoenix, Ariz., to map its traffic markers. A Google executive told Reuters the company was interested in seeing how the sensors that help the cars operate react to desert driving. He also highlighted Arizona’s favorable regulatory treatment of self-driving cars.

Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order last year empowering state agencies to “undertake any necessary steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads within Arizona.”

Even though its self-driving car research is taking place in Pittsburgh, ride-hailing company Uber also tests its mapping technologies in Arizona. The firm has a partnership with the University of Arizona to do optics research that contributes to the company’s mapping work.

In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles is considering new rules that would require a licensed, human driver to be behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle. Companies working on the cars object to that component of the rules. They have even looked to the federal government for guidance.

“To achieve this goal, we propose that Congress move swiftly to provide the secretary of transportation with new authority to approve life-saving safety innovations,” Google’s Chris Urmson said at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last month. “This new authority would permit the deployment of innovative safety technologies that meet or exceed the level of safety required by existing federal standards, while ensuring a prompt and transparent process.”

In addition to Mountain View, Calif., where Google is based, and Phoenix, the company is testing autonomous cars in Austin, Texas, and Kirkland, Wash.

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