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Texas Wants To Put More Autonomous Vehicles On The Road

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT
A Google self-driving car prototype at the Google Fiber Space in 2015.

Like a mirage on a sun-beaten West Texas highway, the future of autonomous vehicles in Texas isn't altogether clear. A new state effort hopes to remedy that.  

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced Tuesday that it's forming a taskforce aimed at being a "one-stop resource for information and coordination on all ongoing projects, investments and initiatives in Texas." 

“Our goal is to further build on the momentum already established,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said in a press release. “We look forward to furthering these important efforts as connected and autonomous vehicles become reality.”

The state has allowed autonomous vehicles to test and even drive on Texas roads and rights of way since 2017, when lawmakers passed a bill requiring the vehicles to follow the rules of the road, have video-monitoring capability and have insurance.

Google's Waymo has been testing autonomous vehicles in Austin since 2015, when it had its first truly driverless car ride in Northeast Austin. Last summer, the city partnered with INRIX on a platform that will let the city identify traffic rules and obstructions on a road-by-road basis and then share that data with autonomous vehicle providers. In North Texas, California-based began testing its driverless service last summer in Frisco.

So far this legislative session, two bills have been filed to tweak Texas' self-driving car laws. One would increase liability of manufacturers in the event of a crash involving an automated vehicle, and another would require providers to equip vehicles with a failure alert system and the latest software.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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