With self-driving cars getting closer to being a viable offering, highways in Northern Virginia will open for some serious testing. Of all highways in the country, those in Northern Virginia are considered the most congested so the fact that multiple interstates are being closed down for testing says a lot.
The interstates that will close include 66, 95, and 495, as well as US routes 50 and 29. Automated cars have been under development for some time with the goal to reduce commute tension. As stated by Myra Blanco, director of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Center for Automated Vehicle Systems, with so many cars on the road in Virginia, self-driving cars will be of extreme benefit.
As far as automated cars in other areas of the country, each state wants independent proof, which will require additional testing. However, as Blanco explained, the goal in Northern Virginia is to show other states how testing should be performed and ways to facilitate the process.
With this, the automated car technology will advance but more importantly, attract companies, as well as satellite offices in the region to come up with new concepts. At this time, testing is slotted for one year from now, which is great news but regarding when self-driving cars will actually be on the road, that is still quite some time away.
As part of the tests, 70 miles of roads will open in Virginia. With this, Northern Virginia becomes one of the very first states where testing of self-driving cars on public roads will be allowed. Other states that will also conduct testing include California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and Washington DC.
Research is being overseen by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in conjunction with Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicle and Department of Transportation. Prior to being tested on open roads, automated cars will drive around the test tracks of the Institution to go through a certification process showing them to be safe enough for the highways.
Although the cars are self-driving, during the tests a behind-the-wheel driver will be mandated in case of malfunction. If all goes as planned, there is a real chance that the current transportation system will be completely transformed at some point in the future. Not only will automated cars make driving more convenient but also enhance overall safety.
When asked about which self-driving car manufacturers would participate in the tests, no names were mentioned at this time. However, it is known that regardless of the vehicles on the road, they will need to be able to adjust to new information instantaneously to include temporary lane closures and traffic jams.