PennDOT has recently applied to a U.S. Department of Transportation solicitation to be designated as an Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Pilot to facilitate the safe and innovative development of these technologies.
“This application further illustrates that we’re a national leader in supporting automated vehicle development with safety and flexibility in mind,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in making the announcement. “We’ve put in significant work on this issue with our task force, with our partners in the legislature, and through close collaboration with the industry.”
The application outlines the benefits and possibilities for testing within the state that already exist and offer an array of environments and topography under varying degrees of testing. The proposal includes testing facilities:
- In Pittsburgh, building on the city’s leadership in development and testing for these vehicles and offering an urban environment, connected signals and multiple bridges and tunnels.
- At Penn State University, which has a closed track where commercial, transit and other vehicles can be tested at low speeds and with controlled incidents.
- At the Pocono Raceway, which offers a closed track and is ideal for testing higher speeds, multiple connected vehicles (platooning) and other options.
The proposal also underscores Pennsylvania’s innovative cooperation among government, industry and academia by:
- Offering a unique and scalable approach to this technology with the varied stakeholders and testing facilities included.
- Highlighting the department’s active and ongoing Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force, which recently issued its recommended guidance to assist with testing policies, which not only demonstrates investment in this innovative mission, but also illustrates the collaborative framework necessary to make testing proving grounds a success.
- Establishing PennDOT as the lead agency on this issue in the state, aligning with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Federal Automated Vehicles Policy (September 2016).
- Including technical and research partners – the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University – in addition to the testing partners.