DOT establishes 10 autonomous vehicle proving grounds

The new program will also share learnings between research groups.

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REUTERS/Maki Shiraki
REUTERS/Maki Shiraki

So far, testing autonomous vehicles on city streets has had mixed results. Uber's plan did not go over well in the company's hometown of San Francisco, but cities like Phoenix and Boston have been a little more receptive to the idea. Now, to solve some of those bureaucratic headaches and foster a little more collaboration at the same time, the US Department of Transportation has laid out 10 autonomous vehicle proving grounds where research teams, automakers and startups can try out their technology before it hits the streets.

According to US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, the proving grounds will provide more than just the physical roads to drive on -- they'll also form a community where new findings can be shared between the participants.

"The designated proving grounds will collectively form a Community of Practice around safe testing and deployment," Foxx said in a statement. "This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed, enabling the participants and the general public to learn at a faster rate and accelerating the pace of safe deployment."

The proving grounds were picked from over 60 potential sites and include a range of academic, state and private institutions around the country. Those sites are:

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

Although it's unclear whether big names like Uber, Google and GM will participate (they have their own test sites and plenty of intellectual property to protect, after all), here's hoping that a little more collective knowledge helps the next generation of autonomous vehicles avoid that pesky bike lane problem. It remains to be seen, however, how Foxx's successor and Trump appointee Elaine Chao will handle the department once the President-elect takes office.

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