Self-driving cars in Boston’s future

Moves are being made by the City to explore the potential use of self-driving vehicles in Boston, according to a press release.

A new program has been launched as a collaboration between Boston Transportation Department and the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in partnership with the World Economic Forum. The program includes a yearlong engagement focused on creating policy recommendations and supporting on-street testing of autonomous vehicles, or self-driving vehicles. The collaboration will advance the safety, access, and sustainability goals identified by the public during the Go Boston 2030 transportation planning process.

“Boston’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum represents our commitment to creating a safe, reliable, and equitable mobility plan for Boston’s residents. We are focused on the future of our city and how we safely move people around while providing them with reliable mobility choices,” said Mayor Martin Walsh, according to the press release. “With our start-ups and educational institutions, Boston is a leader in technology, robotics and innovation. Together with our partners, we know the City of Boston is ready to lead the charge on this transformative technology.”

The World Economic Forum is an international organization for public-private cooperation. Boston was select as the lead partner city for the World Economic Forum’s City Challenge, which is an initiative to support cities in their efforts to prepare for the future of urban mobility. The City of Boston will develop a strategy for new mobility, including autonomous driving, and figure out a framework for testing of the autonomous vehicles on city streets.

“Boston distinguished itself in the application process with its strong appetite and track record in civic innovation and some very thoughtful questions about the intersection of vehicle automation and shared mobility,” said John Moavenzadeh, head of mobility industries at the World Economic Forum, according to the press release. “Our advisory board, which is a cross-industry group of public and private sector experts, overwhelmingly felt that Boston provided the best opportunity for learning and advancement of new models of mobility.”

The World Economic Forum researched self-driving vehicles in 2015. The results indicated that autonomous vehicles, when shared, have the potential to take 60 to 70 percent of cars off the road and reduce road fatalities by up to 90 percent due to the reduction of human error. The City of Boston also expects small emission reductions from autonomous vehicles if they are electric.

While industry experts agree self-driving cars will be a significant presence on U.S. roads by 2030, complete regulations have not been put into place to prepare for them. Boston and World Economic Forum’s partnership will include an autonomous vehicle pilot, which will guide Boston and other cities through the process of integrating, and maximizing benefit from, new mobility technologies.


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