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Arizona and California compete to attract self-driving car tests

Arizona’s regulations

Waymo, a Google-owned autonomous car developer is already showcasing its driverless Pacifica minivans as reported in a recent Digital Journal article.

On Thursday Arizona governor Doug Ducey issued a new executive order making what is already happening official, allowing fully autonomous cars to operate on public roads with no safety driver. The vehicles must follow all existing traffic laws and rules for cars and drivers.

Ducey initially issued his order in 2015, and since then, Uber, Waymo, General Motors and Intel have been testing self-driving cars on public roads in Arizona. Waymo even does so with no driver behind the wheel of the robot cars. Waymo hopes to start its ride-sharing operation this year.

Ducey said: “As technology advances, our policies and priorities must adapt to remain competitive in today’s economy. This executive order embraces new technologies by creating an environment that supports autonomous vehicle innovation and maintains a focus on public safety.”

There are already 600 self-driving cars operating on public roads in Arizona. Not only Waymo is testing the cars but Intel as well. Also, Uber and GM are testing their cars near Scottsdale. The white minivans are a common site in Chandler and also in Phoenix. Uber’s grey SUV’s can be seen around Arizona State University. GM’s white cars are mostly seen around south Scottsdale.

Kevin Beisty, deputy director for policy at the Arizona Department of Transportation said at a public forum that Arizona prided itself as “being part of the innovation and trying to stay out of the way of innovation”.

California allows testing as well

The Ducey announcement comes just a few days after California announced that it would let fully autonomous vehicles on public roads in April. Previous tests on public roads required a safety driver be in all cars.

Arizona regulations are fewer than those of California. In California testers are required to get a permit, and must submit annual reports on software disengagements. In contrast Arizona requires no public disclosures of these.

Uber had an argument with California over its regulations last year which prompted them to move their tests to Arizona.

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