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SANDAG Hears Plans To Test Self-Driving Cars On San Diego Roads

An undated map shows the three areas where SANDAG plans to oversee testing of...

Credit: SANDAG

Above: An undated map shows the three areas where SANDAG plans to oversee testing of autonomous vehicles.

Soon, you might start to see self-driving cars on public roads as part of a national test planned for the San Diego region.

Soon, you might start to see self-driving cars on public roads as part of a test planned for the San Diego region.

During its Friday meeting, the regional transportation authority SANDAG heard a presentation about plans to turn parts of the San Diego area into proving grounds for autonomous vehicles by early next year.

The region is one of ten sites around the country selected by the Department of Transportation. Local testing will take place in three areas: express lanes of the I-15, the southern segment of the South Bay Expressway and streets throughout the city of Chula Vista.

SANDAG director of operations Ray Traynor said San Diego is approaching testing differently than other sites, such as a facility run by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority where cars will be tested away from the public.

"All of the three test beds are really live, public environments," Traynor said. "So the nature of the testing here, we think, is very different than what might occur in a closed test track. This type of testing is the final phase before commercial release."

SANDAG also heard from local companies that plan to test new technologies for autonomous vehicles in the San Diego area. A Qualcomm representative discussed the company's work on 5G networks and other efforts to wirelessly connect self-driving cars to each other — and perhaps even to nearby pedestrians through their smartphones.

Talking about the evolution of self-driving car technology in San Diego, SANDAG chair Ron Roberts told the board, "This is one of the most exciting things that's happening. And it's coming fast, folks."

Traynor said the providing ground project could remain active in the San Diego area for a decade or longer, depending on future needs for demonstrating safety and crafting public policy around self-driving cars.

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