Driverless car proving grounds in place, but millions of dollar still needed to build the facilities

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Driverless car proving grounds in place, but millions of dollar still needed to build the facilities

— The testing of self-driving car technology continues on American roads, and as 10 proving ground locations have been picked by the Department of Transportation (DOT), the question of money to pay for those 10 sites hasn't been included in the 2018 federal budget.

But four members of Congress are trying to do something about that as they joined forces to request $200 million be set aside for the facilities designated by the DOT as driverless car proving grounds.

Those facilities picked for testing of autonomous car technology include the following:

  • City of Pittsburgh and the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute
  • Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership
  • U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center
  • American Center for Mobility (ACM) at Willow Run
  • Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) & GoMentum Station
  • San Diego Association of Governments
  • Iowa City Area Development Group
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners
  • North Carolina Turnpike Authority

U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, and U.S. Representatives Fred Upton and Debbie Dingell, say the money must be part of the 2018 budget as the subject of self-driving cars takes the auto industry into the "midst of a seismic technological shift that will revolutionize the transportation of people and goods in our lifetime."

Choosing the 10 testing locations won't mean much without the money to support the tests and build the facilities to perform those tests on a technology that many see as the answer to drastically reduce the 35,000 lives lost on America's roads and highways.

With much of the public questioning the safety of turning self-driving cars loose on the roads, the members of Congress say the only way to convince consumers of any safety benefits is with testing, and lots of it.

The proving grounds will be locations where all types of autonomous car technology companies can not only test their products, but also share ideas as those products are developed.

Research shows the idea of a fully autonomous car without a steering wheel scares most drivers, with 80 percent of consumers wanting to always retain the option of taking control of the cars. However, those numbers are expected to change as 73 percent of kids now in middle and high school say they will be fine with owning a car without a steering wheel or pedals.

Then again, those young drivers who eventually have their own young children may not be so quick to trust fully automated buses to get their kids to school.

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