Permits, Economic Potential in Focus At Autonomous Vehicles Meeting

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) unveiled a draft of its new permitting process for testing autonomous vehicles in the state at the March 2 meeting of the Maryland Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Working Group. The Working Group also heard a Howard County presentation on the economic development potential of autonomous and connected vehicles. (An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that can control itself for short or extended periods of time, or does not need a driver at all. A connected vehicle is plugged into a network or other information system and can relay information and possibly receive driving commands through this system.)

Motor Vehicle Administrator Christine Nizer outlined the new permitting process, noting that the process document will be amended as necessary. Entities interested in testing automated vehicles in the state must first complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) form at the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) website. MVA and the Maryland State Police will then work with the applicant to ensure that the applicant complies with both State and federal autonomous vehicle testing requirements. As part of the approval process, MVA will consult with (and where appropriate seek approval from) state agencies and local jurisdictions relevant to the proposed testing. All applicants must also demonstrate proof of liability insurance or a surety bond for no less than $5 million. Nizer noted that one interested company has already filed an EOI.

Howard County Economic Development Authority Executive Vice President Vernon Thompson discussed the county economic development potential and effects posed by autonomous and connected vehicles. Thompson noted that the central region of Maryland was well positioned to become a major autonomous/connected vehicle research and development hub, citing a well educated workforce; access to a key road systems; and robust education and cyber security facilities. Thompson stated requirements to attract companies, including: (1) regulatory support; (2) liability and insurance clarity; (3) technology and engineering scalability; and (4) strong safety and cyber security systems.

Thompson also stressed that counties need to think about the job, planning, and infrastructure impacts of autonomous and connected vehicles as well. For example, he noted that trucking and valet parking jobs would likely disappear, the need for parking garages might be reduced, and the need for curbside access will increase. Cyber security protections will also be vital.

The Working Group also heard presentations from: (1) the United States Army Aberdeen Test Center on its unmanned vehicle research and facilities; and (2) the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT Lab) on its RITIS transportation data collection and analysis system and autonomous and connected vehicle activities. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Howard County Deputy Director of Public Works/Environmental Mark Deluca represented the counties at the meeting. The Working Group’s next meeting has not been scheduled.

Useful Links

CATT Lab Website

Howard County Economic Development Authority Website

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Autonomous Vehicles