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Technology & Entrepreneurship

San Antonio Takes Another Step Towards Testing Self-Driving Cars On Public Roads

Lennon Maldonado
Texas Public Radio
A Lincoln MKZ outfitted with Southwest Research Institute's self-driving Ranger system drives through an obstacle course.

San Antonio could soon take another step towards testing autonomous vehicles.

City staff announced its intention to highlight some city needs to the autonomous vehicle industry and see if it could improve them. Art Reinhardt, assistant director of transportation and capital improvement, presented five test cases, ranging from autonomous shuttle service areas — like Joint Base San Antonio — to ideas on the best way to integrate the technology into a city fleet.

The alternative, Reinhardt said, is waiting for a company to come and test in San Antonio without city input.

"Someone could show up tomorrow if the technology existed and start testing by state law,” he said. “With that being the case, it would be great to get out ahead of that and understand the use cases and the technology that exists."

Texas passed a law last year that would nullify local regulations around autonomous vehicle testing.

Council member reaction to the request for information was mixed. District 10 councilman Clayton Perry said he worried about citing the handful of deaths resulting from autonomous pilot programs in other cities.

“Yeah, we get out there with the testing, and being on the cutting edge. I would not my name on a proactive approach of doing that and someone get hurt or get killed,” he said.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said the focus should be more on the Transportation Demand Management program, which incentivizes and encourages people to learn more about and use all of the city's transportation options.

The city could issue the RFI as early as this summer. Based on reaction from the industry test cases, a request for proposal with money attached would be issued.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or follow him on Twitter @paulflahive