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Boston to Allow City-Wide Testing of Self-Driving Cars

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【Summary】​For the past year, city officials in Boston restricted companies testing autonomous technology to less populated, industrial areas of the city. Now that is about to change, as the city is now allowing self-driving cars to roam the streets citywide, including during the morning rush hour.

Jeremy Carlton    Jun 20, 2018 3:37 PM PT
Boston to Allow City-Wide Testing of Self-Driving Cars

For the past year, city officials in Boston restricted companies testing autonomous technology to less populated, industrial areas of the city. Now that is about to change, as the city is now allowing self-driving cars to roam the streets citywide, including during the morning rush hour.

The MIT spinoff nuTonomy is becoming the first autonomous vehicle company to receive approval from city officials to expand its self-driving tests citywide. NuTonomy makes software to build self-driving cars and autonomous robots. Last year, nuTonomy and ride-hailing company Lyft announced a partnership focused on bringing nuTonomy vehicles to the Lyft network in Boston.

"Today, we are excited to have access to some of the most complex roads in North America as we continue to focus on improving the safety and efficiency of transportation in cities worldwide," nuTonomy president Karl Iagnemma said in a statement.

NuTonomy has been testing in a limited area in Boston for well over a year, initially in the Raymond L. Flynn Industrial Park, and later on more roads in the Seaport District. There, the company also conducted a pilot program with passengers in its autonomous vehicles. Additionally, nuTonomy has done extensive testing in Singapore.

"Continuing to test autonomous vehicles in a careful and methodical manner represents another step forward in helping us to achieve the vision for improved mobility that was established by residents during the Go Boston 2030 Transportation Plan public process," Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement.

The city also views driverless cars as a way to make roads safer, and says nuTonomy has a strong safety record. A human driver, as a rule, must be behind the wheel during testing.

In March, Walsh suspended all autonomous vehicle testing in Boston after an autonomous Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman in Arizona. In December of 2016, the California DMV revoked Uber's vehicle registrations and their ability to test in San Francisco after a self-driving Uber vehicle was caught on video running a red light in the downtown area.

Though they can't take their self-driving cars on all city roads, other autonomous vehicle companies are also testing in Boston. Optimus Ride, for example, has been testing in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Industrial Park since last year. NuTonomy is also testing its autonomous cars in Singapore.

NuTonomy was acquired by auto parts supplier Delphi last October for about $450 million.

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