ALBANY, N.Y. -- Driverless cars will be testing roads here in New York State in the near future.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that a program to allow testing of autonomous vehicles is officially open to applications from manufacturers of cars or companies working those manufacturers.
It’s the metaphorical door that companies like Tesla, Google, Waymo, and Uber have been waiting for to open.
Testing is already happening elsewhere in the U.S., and now New York will join other states in the ongoing research to determine how safe and reliable driverless cars are.
Technically, the legal period to apply for and begin testing starting on April 1. The pilot program and the law allowing driverless vehicles on the road expire April 1, 2018.
At UB, Professor Chunming Qiao, Ph.D, is a computer science engineer helping to advance autonomous car technology.
"That technology is mostly still in the lab and being tested, except for a few preliminary technologies, like autopilot of a Tesla, it really has not been commercialized,” Qiao said of where the general progression of the technology stands now.
That means if and when you see them on the road, understand this isn't the norm yet; Companies will be analyzing how the cars respond to New York's climate and different kinds of roads.
Qiao understands there are still risks, as is the case with any new technology, and that's why perhaps the biggest priority is safety, which many still doubt.
“Autonomous vehicle[s] have a lot of potential in improving safety and efficiency of the transportation system,” said Qiao.
He believes this is ultimately where the future of transportation is going.
Then there's the rest of us. How will we react to sharing the road with driverless cars? It will certainly take some getting used to. As New York's DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner puts it, not only does the testing need to make sure the technology is safe but also, Terri Egan said, it needs to provide "opportunities for the public to become familiar with this technology."
"This is why it's important not to just test an autonomous vehicle in a closed track, but in an open road where you can study the reaction from the human drivers,” Qiao said.
Other technologies need to be right there with driverless car technology. Driverless cars will use radar technology among other sensory systems in addition to GPS and cameras.
Testing companies would be required to carry $5 million insurance policies, and a driver would have to be behind the wheel of any car that enters a highway.