The city of Boston also allows testing of self-driving cars. But the Boston Globe reports that “There are far fewer complaints about self-driving cars because you barely see them.”

[F]ollowing a string of high-profile crashes and the disruption of the COVID pandemic, the state Transportation Department — now under Governor Maura Healey — has seemingly lost its enthusiasm for AVs… Only one company is permitted to test autonomous vehicles here — Boston-based Motional — and it confines its occasional experiments to a corner of the Seaport and a closed track at Suffolk Downs in East Boston. And despite past efforts to woo autonomous-vehicle firms, the state hasn’t received any new applications in years…

Proponents have long said AVs could transform transportation, with all manner of economic and social benefits: high-paying jobs in robotics, manufacturing, and artificial intelligence, and reduced carbon emissions should people forgo private cars for electric robo-taxis. But skeptics abound, particularly in San Francisco, where residents say autonomous vehicles have caused traffic jams and blocked emergency vehicles… [A]fter an autonomous Uber vehicle in Arizona killed a pedestrian in 2018, Boston transportation officials asked nuTonomy and Optimus Ride, the two companies the state had granted a permit, to pause testing in the city…

There’s another key difference between Massachusetts and some other states — including California — where autonomous testing is more advanced. Here, companies seeking to test self-driving cars need the approval of both state regulators and officials in whatever communities where they plan to test. In California, AV firms just need the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Public Utilities Commission to sign off; then they “notify” local governments of planned testing in the area. Those rules significantly ease the path for AV companies, but have created significant friction between the state and cities like San Francisco, where companies like General Motors-owned Cruise and Waymo, a subsidiary of Google, have been testing self-driving cars without humans… So far, California has issued permits to seven companies to test autonomous vehicles without safety drivers and to over 60 automakers and software firms to test self-driving cars with a backup human driver, including Apple, Nissan, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Tesla, according to state records. In Massachusetts, there’s only Motional, which seems inclined to stick to the Seaport and Suffolk Downs.
One startup founded suggested Massachusetts create a special lane where autonomous vehicles can test safely.

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By mrtrv

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