Here's Why Arizona Continues to be a Hub for Autonomous Cars

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【Summary】With Arizona’s relaxed regulations for autonomous vehicles and warm weather, the state will continue to be prime real estate for automakers and tech companies looking to test driverless cars.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Feb 12, 2018 10:30 AM PT
Here's Why Arizona Continues to be a Hub for Autonomous Cars

It's been one of the coldest winters in the United States, with northern territories being pummeled by negative temperatures and regular snowfall. The foul weather isn't ideal for automakers and tech companies looking to test their priceless autonomous cars that are fitted with various hardware and software components. Winter is a tricky month for testing, as snow covers up crucial road markings and wreaks havoc on cameras and sensors
Warmer Climates Are Better For Autonomous Testing

That's why a lot of companies have set up headquarters in states like Arizona, California, and Nevada. The states have stable climates that let companies test their vehicles all year. Arizona, for example, will always be a hub for autonomous vehicles and the state's weather is a prime reason as to why that is. 

According to a report by USA Today, Arizona has become the home to various companies, including Uber, Intel, General Motors, Lyft, and Waymo, as the prime testing grounds for their driverless machines. While those companies are recent additions to the state's lineup of autonomous companies, Toyota has had a proving ground in the state for numerous years. As the outlet claims, Toyota's facility in Wittman has been within Arizona's borders for 25 years. 

Toyota's decision to set up shop in the state wasn't a difficult one, either, according to Richard Woodroffe, Toyota's proving-ground manager for its Arizona location. As Woodroffe puts it, Arizona's warm climate is the prime reason for the Japanese automaker's decision to use it as the location for the majority of its autonomous testing. The warm weather allows Toyota to test vehicles all year, while low rainfall means disruptions aren't a major concern. 

"The Phoenix area specifically also has relatively low winds and a temperature range that is conducive to completing regulatory tests almost every day of the year," said Woodroffe. "Arizona also allows the testing of vehicles in extreme high temperatures," which makes worst-case scenario testing possible. 

Extremely Hot Temps Mean Privacy

While automakers and companies are dreading the idea of testing vehicles in cold climates, extremely warm ones also have their own downsides. But the majority of people stay away from incredibly warm and remote areas like deserts, which is a major upside to companies. Remote locations mean that competitors and the public don't have easy access to see what kind of progress companies are making. 

USA Today points towards General Motors' proving grounds in Yuma, which is located inside the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground. The site, according to the outlet, was chosen because it's a no-fly zone. That level of remoteness played a large role in the decision to move from the automaker's first location in Mesa, which was its prime location for approximately 56 years. 

Friendly Legislation Allows For More Testing

In addition to the weather, the legislative and business aspects of the state are also beneficial for companies. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has been extremely supportive of autonomous testing in the state, USA Today points towards an executive order that Ducey signed back in 2015 that allowed the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. 

The effort, according to the outlet, was done with the goal of bringing "economic growth, bring new jobs, provide research opportunities for the state's academic institutions and their students and faculty, and allow the state to host the emergence of new technologies." 

Regulations and weather play a large role in where companies can test their driverless vehicles, but Arizona also has a good mix of urban density and wide-open roads for testing. The new trend of sharing more via the Internet instead of owning something also played a large role in setting up shop in Arizona. 

"Arizona has led the way when it comes to embracing ridesharing," said Stephanie Sedlak, Uber spokeswoman for the Arizona market. "Governor Ducey has made the sharing economy of his top priorities during his time in office and, with that foundation in mind, Arizona is an ideal place for Uber to introduce self-driving cars."

via: USA Today 

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