US seeks proposals for driverless car ‘proving grounds’

Empty road in mountains surrounded by cloud

 The US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week announced the launch of a new ‘Automation Proving Ground Pilot Program’ – a project to find proving grounds for the safe testing, demonstration and deployment of driverless cars. 

The Department of Transportation (DOT) believes that by designating facilities as qualified proving grounds, it can help to create a safe environment for driverless testing and development.

In a briefing announcing the request for proposals, Foxx wrote: “Safety is our top priority at USDOT and over the past year we have leaned in on ushering in these innovations that will transform transportation as we know it.” 

In an invitation for proposals, the DOT says that it intends to “foster the safe deployment of advanced automated vehicle technologies”. 

To do so, the Department wants to create a network of proving grounds around the country that will support the development of the driverless industry.

While it acknowledges that technologies for automated and connected vehicles are already advancing, the DOT believes the pace of innovation can be increased by testing and deploying self-driving vehicles on closed tracks and campuses.

“I encourage all entities that are eligible to submit a proposal,” said Foxx. “We will be accepting applications from test tracks or testing facilities, race tracks, cities or urban cores, highway corridors and campuses (corporate or academic).”

The successful proving grounds will form a ‘Community of Practice’, which will share best practices for the safe conduct of self-driving vehicle testing and operations, says the Department.

In September, the DOT announced the publication of a new federal policy – the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy – intended to ease the introduction of self-driving vehicles.

The proactive policy aims to set out safety standards for car-makers developing autonomous driving technologies and lay a path for the safe testing and deployment of these new technologies.

Organisations interested in having a track or campus designated as a USDOT Automated Vehicle Proving Ground have until 19 December to submit their proposals. Further information on the submission process can be found here.