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Three central Ohio cities agree to be testing grounds for autonomous cars

BRANDON KLEIN
Special to the Legal News

Published: December 6, 2018

Three central Ohio communities are welcoming the testing of self-driving cars and related technologies.

Columbus, Dublin and Marysville have signed agreements with DriveOhio, the state's smart mobility center, to test autonomous and connected vehicles along with other smart mobility infrastructure.

"Companies that create technologies for autonomous and connected vehicles want to test their innovations in real-world environments and Ohio offers the best variety of conditions and locations for that," said Jim Barna, executive director of DriveOhio. "Our Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program connects these companies with communities that want to serve as test beds."

Gov. John Kasich created the Autonomous Vehicle Pilot program earlier this year. The program links private industry with cities interested in serving as testing site for the tech.

DriveOhio will provide assistance to the participating communities including the determination of specific locations and attributes to promote to testers, educating their local law enforcement about autonomous and connected vehicles and promoting partnerships with DriveOhio's partnered companies and organizations.

Dublin, Marysville, Union County and the Marysville-Union County Economic Development Corporation, will work on a project to equip 1,200 vehicles with technology that can communicate with dedicated short-range communications devices installed in roads, traffic lights and other types of infrastructure.

The data can then be used to alert drivers, law enforcement and traffic managers about road and traffic conditions.

"Self-driving cars are going to reshape our transportation system, and we want to be ready for it," stated Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel. "The best way to prepare for an autonomous future is to begin integrating these technologies into our vehicles and infrastructure. Participating in the pilot program will make it easier for us to do that."

DriveOhio said the program supplements other assets to attract smart mobility companies such as its collaborative environment and infrastructure.

"Maintaining a leadership role nationally and globally as a premier testing ground is in the state's best interest," Barna said. "It promotes economic development and brings the jobs of the future to Ohio. At the same time, it makes our roads safer and gives people more mobility options."

The city of Springboro is close to finalizing an agreement. Several other cities, including Dayton, Youngstown and Cleveland, have also expressed interest in participating in the program.

In September, Columbus, in partnership with May Mobility, began testing self-driving shuttles in the Scioto Mile area with passenger pickups schedule to start next month.

"Residents win when we add more mobility options to our transportation ecosystem - making it easier to get to work, school or local attractions," Mayor Andrew J. Ginther stated at the time.

On the other hand, interest in self-driving vehicle technology has declined, according to research Allianz Global Assistance released in September.

Less than half of Americans, or 43 percent, are interested in utilizing self-driving cars, down from 53 percent last year, according to the AGA's fourth annual Sharing Economy Index.

AGA found that 71 percent of those surveyed attributed their declining interest to safety compared with 65 percent last year. Other reasons include costs, lack of familiarity and bad publicity.

"Based on consumer perceptions, our survey reveals an uncertain future for self-driving cars," stated Daniel Durazo, director of communications, Allianz Global Assistance USA. "Many Americans are far from being convinced that self-driving cars can be operated safely on our streets. As our Future of Travel survey last year indicated, more travelers would feel safer on a rocket to space than being a passenger in a self-driving vehicle."

But the AAA Foundation found that advanced driver assistance systems could prevent 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries and nearly 9,500 deaths each year in the United States if they were installed on all vehicles.

"When properly utilized, ADAS technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths," said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a statement. "However, driver understanding and proper use is crucial in reaping the full safety benefits of these systems."

In Ohio, 1,179 people died in traffic crashes on the state's roads in 2017 - a 16 percent increase from 2013, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol statistics.

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