New York City’s streets are about to get a bit more clogged, but without the New York drivers.
Autonomous cars are coming to Manhattan in early 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
The driverless cars will be tested by General Motors and Cruise Automation. The two companies were the first to apply to test fully-autonomous vehicles in New York State as part of pilot program legislation passed by Cuomo in May.
“Autonomous vehicles have the potential to save time and save lives, and we are proud to be working with GM and Cruise on the future of this exciting new technology,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The spirit of innovation is what defines New York, and we are positioned on the forefront of this emerging industry that has the potential to be the next great technological advance that moves our economy and moves us forward.”
Officials have already begun mapping where the self-driving cars will be tested in a geofenced area of Manhattan, according to the governor’s office.
The vehicles being tested are considered Level 4 autonomous vehicles, meaning they’re one step below full automation, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers. Level 4 “high automation” vehicles can operate without human intervention, but only within certain parameters, like road type or geographic area.
This will mark the first time Level 4 autonomous vehicles will be tested in New York state, which will open more doors for the technology, experts say.
“Testing in New York will accelerate the timeline to deploying self-driving cars at scale,” said Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise Automation, in a statement. “New York City is one of the most densely populated places in the world and provides new opportunities to expose our software to unusual situations, which means we can improve our software at a much faster rate. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo as we work toward bringing next-generation transportation solutions to New York.”
Engineers will sit in the driver’s seat during the testing to monitor and evaluate the vehicle’s performance, and a second person will be in the passenger seat as well, according to the governor’s office.
The announcement was reportedly news not just to New York City residents, but to city officials, as well.
“The city was not given much notice, and we certainly were not consulted,” Eric Phillips, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, told WCBS. “We have very real safety concerns.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also said she had been left out of the loop.
“Neither I nor staff were contacted/given heads up,” she tweeted.
Cuomo’s office, however, said that the city was alerted months ago and had been alerted again before the official announcement was made.