Virginia opens up 70 miles of highway for driverless car testing

Google and other companies developing self-driving vehicles now have another state to consider for public road testing: Virginia. It has earmarked 70 miles of highway in the northern part of the state -- now called the "Virginia Automated Corridors" -- for the project, which will be overseen by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). Any car slated for testing in the Mother of States must first undergo an initial trial on the institute's smart roads before they're unleashed in public. VTTI director Myra Blanco told Richmond Times-Dispatch that the state will make the process easier for interested parties compared to other states. But if the car does pass the trial, it will still have to be manned by a driver during the actual tests, just in case the vehicle's system malfunctions.

The institute will provide license plates and insurance for any approved vehicle, while the Virginia Department of Transportation could be in charge of keeping lane markings visible for them. In addition, Nokia's HERE maps division is developing 3D mapping tech for the test roads, which will feed real-time info to the self-driving car and give them a way to recognize their lane position. Blanco believes the first self-driving cars to undergo public road testing in Virginia will arrive within a year, though it's unclear at this point which companies are showing internet. It's worth noting that the Old Dominion serves as home to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, though, which makes it ideal for any corporation wanting to collaborate with either of them.