Howard Co. Company Gets Green Light to Test Driverless Car Parking at BWI

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Photo by Xnatedawgx, via Wikimedia Commons

Someday soon, you could be parking at the BWI Airport garage before a flight and watch a driverless vehicle sneak in next to you.

Steer Tech in Howard County now has the state’s permission to test out technology that parks autonomous cars at several state-owned lots, including the parking garage at BWI Airport, the Maryland Vehicle Administration announced last week.

The state has issued permits to the Annapolis Junction-based company to test its robotic vehicle technology. Agency spokeswoman Porlan Cunningham said in an email that the permits allow for testing “at three identified MDOT facilities so far.” Steer Tech received initial permits last June to run tests at an MDOT State Highway Administration Park and Ride lot and a Maryland Transit Administration lot, according to a release.

The company does not make the cars themselves, but has developed an app-based valet service that lets a user park his or her car or summon it to pick them up from wherever it’s parked, according to its website.

“Save time. Reduce Stress. Let your car park for you with STEER,” the page reads.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn formed the Statewide Working Group for connected and autonomous vehicle testing in 2015. The group, comprised of law enforcement, engineers, traffic safety planners, agency representatives, policymakers and others, developed the permitting process.

STEER Tech was among the first companies to apply, and is “the first entity to work through the MDOT permit process and be ready for testing,” Cunningham said.

Separately, MDOT in December 2016 applied to make a stretch of I-95 from Aberdeen Proving Ground to Fort Meade and the University of Maryland a federally approved “proving ground” for driverless cars. The U.S. Department of Transportation had put out a call for applications from around the country to test out more autonomous cars.

The feds ultimately didn’t pick I-95 as a suitable place for testing, but did allow¬†Aberdeen Proving Ground and just nine other sites around the country to experiment with developing autonomous vehicle technology.

Ethan McLeod
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