Virginia Automated Vehicle Development Could Be A Game-Changer For Mature Drivers



“Virginia has always been at the forefront of implementing new transportation solutions, and we are committed to providing an environment in which industry leaders from the automated-vehicle realm can work to answer the needs of drivers.”

—Aubrey Layne, Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth

In June 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced a new partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles permitting research and development for autonomous vehicles to take place in the commonwealth via special automated corridors and test facilities. This alliance further enhances Virginia’s standing as a high-tech idea incubator and laboratory for emerging unmanned systems, smart highways and intelligent vehicle safety technologies.

Autonomous and semi-autonomous innovations could be a game-changer for the nation's growing number of older drivers. Approximately 45 million people in the U.S. are age 65 or older, a figure that stands to grow by another 27 million by 2030. About 36 million current older drivers still hold valid licenses, and about 80 percent of them live in car-dependent suburbs or rural areas—not cities with public transit.

Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Ron Villanueva recently had the opportunity to test drive several autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. This is what he had to say:

“Virginia is in full-throttle mode when in it comes to transportation innovation. We’ve made investments in many transportation sectors: construction and maintenance, the Port of Virginia, airports, rail and public transport. But there is an equal amount of attention focused on transportation safety and technology, which includes automatic vehicle systems. Collaborations with Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute, VDOT, the auto industry and various transportation sectors have produced advancements in road construction materials, signage and markings. These advances make our roads safer for our citizens. 

For mature drivers and permitted disabled drivers, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will help make their driving more efficient and safe and provide welcome mobility and independence to citizens who might otherwise find their transportation options very limited. However, public policy and legislation surrounding these innovations is still being developed; we must ensure that when these new vehicles are one the road the safety of the public is paramount.”

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