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State Senator

Carlo Leone

Representing Stamford & Darien

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Sen. Leone Looks to the Future with Senate Passage of Pilot Program for Self-driving Cars

State Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford), who is the Senate Co-Chairman of the Transportation Committee, today led unanimous and bipartisan Senate passage of a bill that creates a pilot program in four Connecticut cities to test self-driving cars – a blossoming technology that is going to be a significant part of the future of the automotive industry and public transportation.

Sen. Leone said the bill is written in such a way that Stamford will be one of the first four municipalities in Connecticut to test fully autonomous vehicles, or “FAVs.”

“This is the wave of the future, no doubt, and I want Stamford and other cities in Connecticut to be a part of the transportation technology revolution,” Sen. Leone said. “This is going to be a very safe and structured pilot program, and in the long term I think the effects of this technology are going to be as revolutionary as the invention of the airplane or the car itself. It will also bring technology-driven investments and businesses to Connecticut to help boost our economy.

“Thirty-five thousand people died on American roadways in 2015, and most all of those deaths were attributed to human error. Imagine if we were able to reduce that number by half, or completely,” Sen. Leone added. “There are also people who don’t want to drive due to age or handicap or for financial reasons; FAV’s can help them out. Businesses may be able to save money and become more productive. We’re just scratching the surface of possibilities here.”

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. If passed there, it must be signed into law by Governor Malloy, and would take effect immediately.

The bill passed in the Senate today, Senate Bill 260, allows Connecticut to establish a pilot program for up four municipalities to allow FAV manufacturers to test FAVs on those municipalities’ local roads. Once selected, a city leader would enter into a written agreement with an autonomous vehicle tester and specify what routes an FAV would take in town, identify the FAV’s by vehicle identification number, make, year and model, and specify their hours of operation.

All FAV’s in the pilot program would require a licensed and insured human operator in the driver’s seat, monitoring the operation of the vehicle and capable of taking “immediate manual control” of the vehicle if necessary.

Under terms of the bill, a pilot FAV program could be ceased if it is determined that the testing poses a public safety risk.

The bill also creates a task force to study the use of FAVs in Connecticut, with reports due to the Transportation Committee on January 1, 2018, July 1, 2018, and January 1, 2019.

 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, each year the number of states considering legislation related to FAVs has gradually increased: only six states considered FAV legislation in 2012, but 33 U.S. states are considering such legislation  this year.  Fifteen states — Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Vermont and Washington D.C. — have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, while governors in Arizona, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles.

Around the globe, 44 companies have invested more than $1 billion in 87 different FAV technology projects, represent a 10-fold increase in investment since 2012; 68% of those deals are with U.S. companies, mostly located in California.

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