Trump administration puts self-driving testing sites in play, report says

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON — Ten sites picked by the Obama administration to be nation’s hotbeds of self-driving car testing will soon have to compete with the rest of the country as the Trump administration hones its approach to self-driving cars, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

The U.S. Transportation Department plans to disavow 10 locations from California to Florida that on President Barack Obama’s last day in office were designated as federally-recognized “automated vehicle proving grounds,” said the two people, who requested anonymity to discuss the plan.

At the same time, the department is readying a new autonomous car testing initiative that officials envision will eventually lead to testing and demonstration pilots nationwide by companies, cities, states and others, the people said.

The moves are expected to be disclosed Thursday, when Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and other officials announce the third iteration of the department’s automated vehicle policy, the people said.

Details of the new program are being developed, but it’s intended to echo the department’s drone demonstration program announced with much fanfare last May, one of the people said. That program spurred 10 projects pairing companies with local, state and tribal governments for new drone uses.

The department first plans to solicit feedback on the issues posed by autonomous vehicles that should be addressed in the pilot projects, the people said. Project proposals will be solicited once those subjects are determined, they said.

The initiatives are part of the department’s third automated vehicle policy guidance, which for the first time goes beyond automated cars to include the federal agencies that oversee long-haul trucks, gas pipelines, highways and public transit systems.

The policy to date has focused exclusively on highly-automated passenger cars and was last updated in September 2017.

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