Imagine you’re driving to work one morning, look over at the car next to you, and there’s no one behind the wheel. While it sounds like a scene from an episode of The Twilight Zone, it’s quickly becoming a reality. Everyone from safety advocacy groups to government officials are eager to work with automakers to make driverless cars a reality. And believe it or not, they could be here as early as 2021.
That is unless you live in any of these cities. Looking to get ahead of the curve, these municipalities have opened their roads to companies, engineers, and cars as they work out the kinks before this great technological leap forward. Do you live in an area with driverless cars? Believe it or not, autonomous rides might already be in your town.
1. Las Vegas
In the City of Sin, you’re better off having someone else drive you around. But really, who wants to put up with you when you’re partying in Vegas? In January 2017, a company called Navya launched a monthlong pilot program using autonomous shuttles to ferry people up and down Fremont Street. In June 2017, Nevada approved statewide testing of autonomous cars. With its hot climate and well-maintained roads, expect driverless cars to become a common sight across the Silver State.
As one of the most congested cities in the U.S., Boston’s lawmakers see autonomous cars as the solution to a lot of problems. As such, they’ve allowed testing of autonomous cars on the city’s south side since 2016. Company nuTonomy is running a fleet of French Renaults through some of Boston’s most congested and cramped areas to improve the accuracy of the radar and camera systems. If autonomous cars can handle Boston’s brutal traffic and winter weather, then they should be able to handle anything.
3. Chandler, Arizona
Arizona was one of the first states to get on board with autonomous vehicle testing, and somewhat improbably the Phoenix suburb of Chandler has become a hub for the new tech. Waymo, Google’s self-driving car subsidiary, has been operating 50 to 60 Chrysler Pacifica minivans in the area in 2017. Within a few months of launching in Chandler, Uber has begun testing the tech in the area, as well.
4. San Francisco
With Apple, Google, Uber, Lyft, Tesla, and a number of other companies racing to develop self-driving tech in the Bay Area, it only makes sense that San Francisco would be a common sight for driverless cars. Although test cars have been in the picture for a few years now, in 2017 companies began offering autonomous taxi services. Cruise (a subsidiary of General Motors) and Lyft have moved into the city, helping to make the forward-thinking tech hub live up to the hype.
5. Austin, Texas
In October 2015, Austin, Texas, became the first U.S. city where a fully autonomous car (with no driver or engineer on board) took a passenger from one point to another on public roads. Since then, the city has referred to itself as the “Kitty Hawk of driverless cars” and fully embraced the new technology. Waymo and Audi are actively testing cars in the Texas capital.
6. Gothenburg, Sweden
The home of Volvo has embraced driverless cars more than any other city in the world. In January 2017, the company launched its Drive Me project in conjunction with the city government. The program includes 100 local families that will use fully autonomous XC90 SUVs over the next few years. Volvo will use the data collected from these test SUVs to refine the system it eventually launches on its production cars sometime in the early 2020s.
It’s no secret that Uber wants to develop a fleet of driverless cars. And though this still seems like the stuff of science fiction, it’s already a reality. In 2016, the company launched a fleet of autonomous Ford Fusions to transport riders in a 12-square-mile area of downtown. Although the car drives itself, Uber has an engineer stationed in every car, ready to take control at a moment’s notice.
If American cities are enthusiastic about a driverless future, England is going all in on the idea. The government believes autonomous cars will be a major industry in the country by the late 2030s, and it’s already at work creating a legal framework to usher in this future. Among several companies doing full-scale testing across the country, Nissan and Volvo are testing exclusively in the capital. Oxbotica, a group based in Oxford, is testing a number of cars along a route between Oxford and London.
9. Albany, New York
The Empire State is among the latest crop of states to approve autonomous vehicle testing. So far, Audi is the only company to jump in with its team working out of Albany, the state capital. Audi’s car, named Jack, tests in and around the city, including along a stretch of Interstate 87 just southeast of the city.
10. Windsor, Ontario
Located just over the border from Detroit, Windsor, Ontario, has been an important part of American auto manufacturing for over a century. But if you’ve ever crossed a border into a different country, you know how stressful, difficult, and sometimes confusing it can be.
Continental, the tire and auto supplier, and Magna, a Canadian parts supplier, have been testing cars from southern Michigan into mid-Ontario, crossing over at Windsor. While tests like this can further hone the new tech, they’re also invaluable in creating an international precedent for crossing borders in driverless cars. The smoother these tests go, the easier it will be by the time your car makes you a full-time passenger.
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