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Texas wants to put more autonomous vehicles on the road

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Like a mirage on a sun-beaten West Texas highway, the future of autonomous vehicles in Texas isn’t altogether clear. A new state effort hopes to clear up the prospect of an increasingly connected fleet of vehicles on the road.

The Texas Department of Transportation announced yesterday that it’s forming a task force to bring more investment in autonomous and connected vehicles to the state, aimed at being a “one-stop resource for information and coordination on all ongoing projects, investments and initiatives in Texas.”

“Our goal is to further build on the momentum already established,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass in a press release. “We look forward to furthering these important efforts as connected and autonomous vehicles become reality.”

The state has had a law allowing autonomous vehicles to test and even drive on Texas roads and rights of way since 2017, when lawmakers passed a bill requiring the vehicles to follow the rules of the road and have video-monitoring capability and insurance.

In Austin, Google’s Waymo has been testing autonomous vehicles since 2015, when it had its first truly driverless car ride in Northeast Austin. More recently, the city partnered with INRIX last summer on a platform that will let the city identify traffic rules and obstructions on a road-by-road basis and then share that data with autonomous vehicle providers. In North Texas, California-based began testing its driverless service last summer in Frisco.

So far this legislative session, two bills have been filed to tweak Texas’ self-driving car laws. One would increase liability of manufacturers in the event of a crash involving an automated vehicle, and another would require providers to equip vehicles with a failure alert system and the latest software.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. It has been changed since publication to correct a date. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT.

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