HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan.20, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The federal government's designation of the City of Pittsburgh and the Thomas D. Larson Transportation Institute at Penn State University as highly automated vehicle proving grounds will help keep Pennsylvania in the forefront of this emerging technology, PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said today.
The U.S. Transportation Department announced Pittsburgh and the Larson Institute were among 10 designated proving grounds around the nation.
"This is a significant win for Pennsylvania," Governor Tom Wolf said. "My administration has played a leading role in working to maintain the state as a fertile and safe ground for research and testing of highly automated vehicles. The City of Pittsburgh already is one of the leading centers for this emerging technology and the new federal designation will ensure continued success."
Under Governor Wolf, PennDOT formed and directed an Autonomous Vehicle Task Force of an array of stakeholders that has developed a roadmap for the safe management and encouragement of testing in the commonwealth. The task force's draft report was issued in November and a town hall meeting was held in December. The task force is refining the report with the input received from the town hall meeting.
"We have worked diligently to lay the groundwork for the safe testing of highly automated vehicles in Pennsylvania, and the new designations will add impetus for keeping the state as a center of research and development of this technology," Richards said.
The task force report lays out a policy framework for PennDOT to oversee testing in a way that balances public safety with innovation and provides the flexibility required to keep Pennsylvania in the forefront of the potentially transformative technology. The General Assembly must enact authorizing legislation to give PennDOT authority to proceed with such oversight.
Carnegie Mellon University has been researching highly automated vehicles for decades and its work attracted Uber, General Motors and others to Pittsburgh.
"We're excited to be partnering with Penn State on this opportunity," said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. "Together, the City and the University bring a diverse set of testing environments and additional partners to the table. We're looking forward to continuing our national and international leadership in preparing for an autonomous future; and working with U.S. DOT, PennDOT and others to implement policy that promotes safety and encourages innovation."
"We are very excited by this opportunity to partner with the City of Pittsburgh on this autonomous vehicle proving ground," said Eric Donnell, director of the Larson Institute. "We look forward both to this helping further the research, testing and development of highly automated vehicles and to working with transportation partners across the state."
PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission also have formed a SMART Belt Coalition – a first of its kind collaboration with transportation agencies in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan as part of the ongoing work to oversee and encourage the development of highly automated vehicles.
"This technology promises many benefits for our citizens and we will continue to work hard to ensure Pennsylvania remains a safe and welcoming place for highly automated vehicles to develop," Governor Wolf said.
MEDIA CONTACT: Rich Kirkpatrick, 717-783-8800 or 717-439-1787 (cell)
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Transportation