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Beverly Hills is set to become a laboratory for self-driving cars

Beverly Hills is set to become a laboratory for self-driving cars
Photograph: Courtesy Nissan

Beverly Hills wants to take a ride on the self-driving car bandwagon. The city has started the process of getting certified by the federal Department of Transportation as a driverless car testing zone and has announced they want to explore the possibilities of a public transit fleet of autonomous vehicles in the near future.

“As an employment center and tourist destination, Beverly Hills has more than its share of regional traffic; and many traffic, safety and parking problems can be solved with [autonomous vehicles], especially when used as a form of public transportation,” Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch stated in a press release.

The city’s vision for self-driving public transit is a particularly ambitious part of the plan. They are looking toward a future that includes on-demand, point-to-point transportation in the vehicles. Imagine something like a Beverly Hills-specific Uber service—but without the drivers, of course. Officials claim the municipality is collaborating with an engineering team from MIT and Carnegie Mellon to start bringing this to life. Similar projects are already being tested in Spain and the Netherlands, so it may not be as science-fiction as it might have sounded even just a few years ago.

If the Department of Transportation approves the application to launch a driverless test area, the next step will be to bring an automaker in who wants to test there and then get the California state permits in place for those cars (that’s the step Uber didn’t bother to do in San Francisco that ended their testing there). So you’re not likely to be passing a self-driving vehicle in Beverly Hills traffic quite yet, but with Tesla, Toyota, Google, Nissan, Ford, Audi and Honda all working to launch fully autonomous vehicles by 2020, it likely won’t be long until the driver next to you isn’t a driver at all.

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