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This State Wants to be 'Wild West' of Self-Driving Car Testing

Arizona halted autonomous vehicle testing on public roads after a recent death, but one state in the Midwest is going in the opposite direction.

Ohio Governor John Kasich is making a big play for investment from autonomous vehicle companies, likening his state to, ideally, the wild West of self-driving car testing.

While the term ‘wild West’ often suggest a landscape of utter lawlessness, let’s be fair. Kasich’s actual words were ‘wild, wild West.’ Which some find to be an odd choice in words, considering in the actual west, a person was recently killed by a self-driving car that was on a test run in Tempe, AZ.

A new report has even suggested that in the recent incident, where an Uber test vehicle collided with a woman walking her bike at night, the victim was actually identified by the system’s software, but a glitch indicated that it was sensing a sort of false positive, therefore it didn’t stop right away.

Kasich called the incident “terrible” but that’s not stopping him from wanting to put Ohio at the forefront of this burgeoning tech sector, despite whatever potential risks might come with it. As Kasich said when he announced his latest executive order relating to autonomous vehicle testing rules, “you always have to take risks” and “if you don’t take risks, you die.”

And, in reality, even the wildest of wild, wild wests will have some rules. While Kasich’s executive order allows driverless car companies to test on any public road in the state, they will still be required to comply with state traffic laws and meet relevant safety requirements.

Other necessities will be that a vehicle be, at a minimum, monitored remotely – which means the new directive does allow for these vehicles to be operated without a human driver being present in the vehicle.

And while states like Arizona are sending autonomous vehicle testing backwards – suspending it indefinitely after the recent death in Tempe – Kasich seems to see it differently: the Governor pointed to the deaths of his parents at the fault of a drunk driver and says driverless tech will prevent “senseless death” and “carnage” on the highways.

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