NYC Unveils Self-Driving Car Testing Program with Safety Focus

In a significant step towards integrating autonomous vehicles (AV) into the urban landscape, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez unveiled a new permit program designed to regulate AV testing within the city.

The program establishes stringent safety requirements to ensure that AV technology is tested responsibly in what is considered one of the most challenging urban environments in the United States.

“Our streets are vibrant and energetic — and that’s a great thing, but it also means that we need to have strong guardrails and requirements in place on any sort of autonomous vehicles,” Mayor Adams said in a statement on Thursday.

He emphasized the city’s leadership in innovation and the necessity for stringent permit requirements and collaboration with the DOT and emergency services to make AV technology beneficial for New York City. Adams added, “This technology is coming whether we like it or not, so we’re going to make sure that we get it right.”

“We are doing our due diligence to get ahead of the AV revolution, and ensure that if AVs are coming, they do so within a framework that benefits New Yorkers,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. She pointed out the potential for AVs to create training and upwardly mobile jobs.

Commissioner Rodriguez explained the DOT’s role in deploying a new permitting process to facilitate safe and responsible AV testing. “As autonomous vehicle technology expands across the country, DOT is deploying a robust new permitting process to ensure safe, responsible testing on our city’s streets,” said Rodriguez, underscoring the potential of AV technology to improve traffic safety.

The permit program requires applicants to demonstrate their testing experience, technological capabilities, and safety plans, ensuring that they are ready for the unique challenges of New York City streets. A key stipulation is the presence of a trained safety driver behind the wheel at all times, as mandated by state law.

Participants must coordinate closely with the DOT, New York City Police Department, and the Fire Department to ensure their vehicles can safely interact with emergency services. Regular meetings and data reporting will be essential components of compliance with the permit terms.

Google-backed Waymo, known for its contributions to the autonomous vehicle industry, welcomed the city’s initiative.

“We commend this important step, as well as the city’s ongoing commitment to drive innovation and deliver transportation improvements for New Yorkers,” said Michelle Peacock, global head of public policy at Waymo. The company expressed its intention to continue working with Mayor Adams and his administration to bring AV technologies to more cities and communities across the country.

There was no comment from GM’s Cruise during this announcement. Cruise was a disaster in California after its autonomous cars caused injury, while the company has since cut 24% of jobs.

Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) has yet to reach full autonomy, but the latest 12.3 release has showed some very promising signs of being on the right path forward.