Texas has been chosen as a testing ground for automated vehicles, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

The technology is being developed with goals of increasing safety and addressing congestion issues by reducing human error, USDOT said.

"With five of the nation’s 15 fastest-growing cities in Texas and our population expected to potentially double by the year 2050, Texas must be a leader in new technology that addresses transportation challenges," said Texas Department of Transportation Deputy Executive Director Marc Williams. "This partnership puts Texas at the forefront of automated vehicle technologies that likely will shape the future of transportation around the world."

Texas was one of 10 regions selected from a pool of over 60 applicants. USDOT said that the state offers existing controlled environments for testing on research campuses including Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin and The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Campus in San Antonio. Additional testing environments exist in 32 municipal and regional areas. These testing areas form the Texas AV Proving Ground Partnership.

Initial testing will take place on these closed research proving grounds until a formal testing plan is developed and approved by state and local agencies, including the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Dr Chandra Bhat, Director of the Center for Transportation Research at UT Austin, said that the university is already equipping multiple vehicles with sensors including radar, lidar and video as well as communication technology as part of a project funded by TXDoT. Dr. Bhat said that in the immediate term, researchers will be driving these vehicles to collect data and calibrate certain communications and sensing algorithms, but the vehicles will be driven by humans.

"Our top priority is safety, and, as we move forward, we plan to work with appropriate safety enforcement agencies in confined test-beds as we introduce more and more automation in our vehicles, such as on a street within campus. But all tests will be carefully controlled and choreographed," Dr. Bhat said.

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