The mixture of few regulatory hurdles and a welcoming technology community have created at least 2 Arizona cities go-to communities such as autonomous car testing.
The two Tempe and Chandler have established mostly informal agreements with AV technology testers to run self-driving cars on city roads in real-world scenarios.
Uber, the ride-hailing program that has spent heavily in AV technology along with its advancement, has deployed cars in Tempe, home to Arizona State Universitywhere the U.S. News & World Report rankings first from “innovation.”
Meanwhile was testing its technology in Chandler as 2016. The cars — Chrysler Pacifica minivans — are driverless since mid-October.
Officials from both cities pointed to their own tech communities and cultures as a central attraction because of their expansion as AV test beds.
“Tempe has a great reputation as a sophisticated community. We’ve got a really an extraordinary selection of tech-related company and workers working in engineering,” said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, as he rebounds off companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Go Daddy, that have offices at Tempe.
The tech link additionally succeeds in Chandler, said Micah Miranda, the city’s economic development manager, who noted that more than a quarter of the job base is in engineering research or production and software development.
“So we’re very, as a community, about technology and what it can do for us,” he said.
Waymo was also taken with Chandler’s grid network of roads and a chance to test in a setting which includes “extreme weather” events like duststorms, in addition to some unusual vehicles like golf carts and tractors, also said Miranda.
“We’ve got an extremely pro-business, low-regulation neighborhood mentality,” said Miranda, summing up a number of the bigger competencies directing econonmic development, and by extension, AV testing.
The governor’s office has made AV-friendliness a priority. The state does not require any particular permitting or licensing by organizations to check their cars on Arizona roads and highways.
“Because of Arizona’s ‘hands-off’ approach to this field, we don’t require any special permits or reporting needs of the companies which come here to examine,” said Ryan Harding of the Arizona Department of Transportation. “Our goal is ensuring companies developing the technology have a hurdle-free route whilst ensuring crucial areas like security are addressed.”
Other companies like Intel and General Motors also have turned into Arizona for autonomous car testing.
“I’d put Arizona in the group of ‘Come in, we’re open for business’ nations,” said Tara Gill, state program manager at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, that tracks traffic accidents and deaths. “They categorized themselves as having an extremely light hand at the procedure to be able to promote technology development.”
Car and technology companies have responded in kind. Uber has approximately 200 self-driving cars deployed from the San Francisco; Phoenix and Pittsburgh. Metro areas, state officials. In Tempe, Uber’s test cars do not shuttle passengers with no human test-driver at the front seat. And the cars run within a established test course.
“Arizona has led the way when it comes to embracing ridesharing,” said Sarah Abboud, a spokesperson for Uber. “Gov. (Douglas) Ducey has made the sharing market among the top priorities during his time in office and that base in your mind, Arizona is an ideal location for Uber to introduce self driving cars.”
A few 20 says now allow for some form of autonomous car testing — California alone has permitted testing for heaps of vehicles by 45 companies, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Lyft, yet another major ride-hailing car assistance, is the latest.
In Chandler the agreement between town and Waymo isn’t a “formal relationship,” but a “mutual partnership which benefits both the testing companies and Chandler,” according to Miranda. Neither Chandler, nor Tempe has put any sort of end date for its testing.
“It is like an ‘open test,’ if you will,” said Mitchell, the mayor of Tempe. “We only hope the technology proceeds for additional advancement. You wish to be in the forefront of these items.”
Tempe was the site of the nation’s first crash between a driverless car in March if a human-driven car collided with one of the Uber test cars. Officials decided the self-driving car wasn’t responsible.
Saftey is some thing Tempe requires seriously, said Mitchell. However, concerns about security “have not been a problem.”
Chandler addressed concerns about the safety of the testing through a open-house Waymo functioned as a way to answer resident questions and familiarize the community with all the technology.
“And I believe answered a lot of people’s questions and concerns,” said Miranda. “And today we see the cars on the street regularly, and it is kind of no big deal today.”
“It has been a very open and transparent procedure,” he further added.
Skip DescantStaff Writer
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Web of Things, transport and other locations. He spent more than 12 years coverage for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He resides in downtown Sacramento.