City Seeks Information on Potential Pilot Program for Autonomous Vehicles

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Vehicles travel North on Navarro Street in downtown San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Vehicles travel North on Navarro Street in downtown San Antonio.

Driverless cars could be sharing the road with San Antonio motorists in the not-too-distant future.

The City is requesting information about a potential autonomous vehicle pilot program that would inform how driverless cars are eventually used and regulated.

"As part of planning for the future, the City is seeking to better understand how emerging technology, such as autonomous vehicles, may improve connectivity by filling transportation service gaps, improve safety by reducing potential driver error, and also shift the focus to moving people and not just vehicles," City officials stated in a request for information, or RFI. Issued Friday, the RFI calls for responses to be submitted by Aug. 20.

Google-affiliated Waymo has been testing its autonomous vehicle fleet on Austin roads for years, and the city was the site of the first truly driverless car trip carrying a legally blind man to a doctor visit. Capital Metro, Austin's equivalent to transit authority VIA Metropolitan Transit, recently announced plans to test autonomous shuttles in downtown Austin this fall.

Although San Antonio's Fredericksburg Road-Medical Drive corridor is formally listed as part of the Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership, self-driving cars have not been seen zipping along city streets.

The City Council's Innovation and Technology Committee in June identified three zones in which to test so-called smart city technology, innovation geared toward making residents' lives more efficient. The Medical District, Brooks, and downtown were chosen as proving grounds for future initiatives that would be eventually be rolled out citywide.

City officials have said the medical center would likely serve as the local nexus of autonomous vehicle testing.

Brooks, the former U.S. Air Force base with 1,300 acres slated for live-work-play development on the city’s Southeast Side, also could potentially feature autonomous vehicle testing, according to the RFI.

In the RFI, the City mentions other possible aspects of an autonomous vehicle pilot program. One could be shuttling from building to building its 2,000 employees scattered in various locations downtown. Among the other possible uses are integrating autonomous vehicles into City fleets, such as to maintain streets, stormwater systems, and transportation infrastructure, as well as trash collection; as a military base shuttle; and within the Fredericksburg Road proving ground.

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