Picture this: You’re driving along the interstate with a skyline view of Baltimore to your right when, out of nowhere, a car being operated by no one in particular pops up in the lane to your left.
This could be the future for Maryland’s drivers. The Maryland Department of Transportation announced today that it has applied to designate a portion of the I-95 corridor in the state to be a “proving ground” for autonomous cars as part of a federal research project. MDOT submitted its application after the U.S. Department of Transportation notified the country last month that it wants to start testing more autonomous vehicles to study their impact and potential.
Maryland’s proposal is to let the guinea pig cars operate in testing areas and eventually along the interstate between Aberdeen Proving Ground and the general region of Fort Meade and the University of Maryland. The area would also include other public roadways, the Port of Baltimore and BWI Airport. Some facilities are already working with autonomous vehicles, including Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Center for Entrepreneurship in Howard County and the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory, according to MDOT.
Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said in a statement that it’s a great idea. “The I-95 Corridor in Maryland is the ideal one-stop-shop for real-world testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles,” Rahn said. “This corridor is strategically positioned along the thriving east coast and combines a wealth of existing facilities, along with unique testing opportunities at the Port of Baltimore and BWI Airport.”
Interested testing facilities would need to be ready for the arrival of autonomous vehicles by Jan. 1, 2018. Researchers could eventually start testing the cars on public roads, but would start at designated facilities.
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