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Boston to expand autonomous vehicle testing programme city-wide

Boston says the expansion reinforces its Go Boston 2030 commitment to improve mobility for all residents.

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The City of Boston has announced that autonomous vehicle software developer nuTonomy (an Aptiv company) has been authorised to expand testing on Boston streets city-wide.

Boston is using a mandatory and phased approach for its autonomous vehicle testing programme. Under the City’s supervision, nuTonomy has been testing on streets in the Seaport District since January 2017.

Creating a policy for the operation of autonomous vehicles on Boston streets is one of the priorities of the Go Boston 2030 Transportation Plan. The City sees the technology as having great potential to significantly enhance mobility for Boston residents, particularly senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Human factors

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that human factors account for 94 percent of serious crashes in the US. Last year, 14 people were killed in the City of Boston as a result of vehicle crashes, and over 40,000 people were killed in the United States.

The City of Boston is looking to autonomous vehicles as one potential solution to reduce the number of crashes on its roads, in addition to engineering, enforcement and education programmes.

Prior to working with Boston, nuTonomy spent almost two years testing autonomous vehicles on public roadways in Singapore. In Boston, nuTonomy’s testing began on streets within the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Industrial Park before the geographic testing area expanded to additional public streets in the Seaport District. This was followed by a pilot programme where passengers were transported in nuTonomy vehicles between destinations in the area.

How it works

The company must comply with all testing safety protocols stipulated by both the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the vehicles must operate within the legal speed limit at all times. In all cases while testing, a trained safety driver is behind the wheel prepared to take over as necessary. Additionally, nuTonomy, and its parent company Aptiv, uses a test engineer in the passenger seat to monitor system performance.

As part of the upcoming expansion process, nuTonomy will continue to supply quarterly reports to the City and to update the Boston Transportation Department each time it begins operating in a new neighbourhood of Boston.

Currently, one other company is testing autonomous vehicles in the City of Boston. Optimus Ride is operating in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Industrial Park.

Go Boston 2030

“Continuing to test autonomous vehicles in a careful and methodical manner represents another step forward in helping us to achieve the vision for improved mobility that was established by residents during the Go Boston 2030 Transportation Plan public process,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “If deployed thoughtfully, shared fleets of autonomous vehicles could offer the City of Boston the potential to improve safety on our streets, provide equitable connections to the MBTA, and offer a new source of mobility to all Boston residents.”

“Working collaboratively with nuTonomy over the past two years, we have monitored their progress through the testing process and we are confident in the company’s commitment to safety and to our Go Boston 2030 mobility goals,” said Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina N. Fiandaca. “As we continue to invest in improving the City’s bicycle infrastructure, adding bus lanes to our streets, and upgrading the quality of our roadways, we are also working to shape the future of mobility to ensure that it works for all of our residents.”

Karl Iagnemma, president of Aptiv Automated Mobility on Demand, said: “We are excited to have access to some of the most complex roads in North America as we continue to focus on improving the safety and efficiency of transportation in cities worldwide.”

Jonathan Reichental, CIO City of Palo Alto, recently called self-driving cars “the most important technology for the first 50 years of the 21st century,” with the potential to drastically reduce the millions of road deaths we currently see each year globally.

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