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Washington DC Mayor Paves Way for Autonomous Vehicles

by Scott Ferguson
Self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles are going to get presidential treatment in Washington DC as the city's mayor is paving the way to embrace these technologies.

On Monday, February 12, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new agency that will help prepare the city, its residents as well as the streets, for autonomous vehicle testing and other developments. The Interagency AV Working Group is made up of representatives from other city agencies that focus on transportation, disability rights, environmental issues and public safety.

The agency's first task is to create a proposal to test autonomous and self-driving vehicles on 10th Street, SW, near the L'Enfant Plaza.

"We will keep the District on the cutting edge of autonomous vehicles and do so in a way that benefits our residents," said Mayor Bowser in a statement. "Washington, DC is a creative, tech-savvy city, and as we grow, we will always be exploring and investing in innovation and finding ways to make it more inclusive."

The new agency is also working with the city's Southwest Business Improvement District, which works to improve and maintain about 483 acres within the southwest part of Washington, according to its website.

If the city's proposal is accepted, the autonomous vehicle program would run along 10th Street, which connects the National Mall via Independence Avenue and Banneker Park to The Wharf, according to the mayor's office. The street sits above Interstate 395 and about 4,300 cars travel it each day, which would be enough to test autonomous vehicles in real-life traffic situations.

The first step in this process is a Request for Information (RFI), which asks for information and input from autonomous vehicle providers and other technology companies. The RFI also offers a look at where proposed testing route is located.

Washington's elected officials began exploring autonomous vehicle technology in 2017, and Bowser recently traveled to Silicon Valley to pitch the city as a test area for the technology. If approved, it would make the District one of the few Northeast cities testing autonomous technology.

Right now, most self-driving and autonomous vehicle testing is conducted in the Western US, in Nevada, Arizona and California, which is near where these technologies are being developed in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. However, other metropolises are starting to jump into the game, notably Pittsburgh, which is home to Uber's self-driving development team.

Scott Ferguson is the managing editor for the Connected Car, as well as the editor of Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

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