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Virginia Welcomes Autonomous Future, Opens Roads to Testing

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Autonomous cars are becoming more accepted, at least by the government. The state of Virginia has opened up 70 miles of highway for use by companies that are working on self-driving car technology.

They even gave the designated section of roadway a fancy name to make it official. The Virginia Automated Corridors will be in the northern part of the state and it will be overseen by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). These aren’t backwater, desolate sections of road but some of the busiest most congested roads in the country. Sections of Interstates 95, 495, and 66 along with US 29 and US 50 are all part of the program.

Companies wanting to test out their autonomous cars will first have to have them tested by the VTTI to make sure they’re fit to be on Virginia’s public roads. Testing will happen at the institute’s Smart Road test track in Montgomery County and at the Virginia International Raceway in Halifax County.

Virginia joins a list that includes California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and Washington DC which all allow autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. Although laws permit testing of autonomous vehicles in these states, there still has to be someone at the wheel just in case something goes wrong. Don’t expect to see a completely driverless car passing you on Virginia highways just yet.

The VTTI will not only ensure that vehicles are ready for testing on public roads, but will also be responsible for helping provide license plates and insurance for approved vehicles. They’ll be working in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure that everything comes together.

The public highways are the same roads that we all travel everyday with no special modifications, but the test track includes some extra technology that might find its way into public roads of the future. There are sections of the track that are smart roadways which can interact with the car to direct it through signals and even warn of approaching emergency vehicles.

The initiative was announced earlier this week and although no manufacturers are on board right now, the state expects to have autonomous vehicles testing on its roads by the end of the year.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin

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