Colorado is on track to be one of the first states to publicly use autonomous driving technology. In fact, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently finished testing an autonomous vehicle designed to save lives at construction sites: a driverless “impact protection truck” that screens workers from out-of-control traffic.
Development of autonomous vehicles in Colorado is now legal, as of June, when Colorado became the 17th state to pass legislation on autonomous driving technology. Colorado’s authorization bill was carefully written so as not to alter any existing laws. For example, autonomous vehicle passengers must still obey normal traffic laws, such as wearing their seatbelts and moving aside for emergency vehicles.
Forty-one states have considered legislation for autonomous vehicles, as driverless cars are currently being tested on the roads in Michigan, California and Arizona. In order for companies to test driverless cars, they must first gain permission from both the state department of transportation and state highway patrol.
A variety of technological advancements have led to the possibility of driverless cars. The combination of 4G internet, digital maps, mobile phones, car technology and a deeper level of perception by computers have made the technology more reliable and cost-effective.
Colorado has recently been a hub of technological advancements. Denver was picked by Panasonic to build smart city Peña Station Next. The city is equipped with LED-street lights that cut down 70 percent of energy costs, notify the city when a light is out, dim when there is ambient light and can flash to guide people in emergencies.
The city will have an environmental sensor, known as the “Fitbit for cities” that measures air particles, temperature, humidity and solar cloud coverage. Peña Station Next will have a driverless shuttle as its main form of transportation. The city is currently uninhabited, but a series of apartments are on the way to bring the city to life.
Opponents of the Colorado bill for autonomous vehicles were especially wary of safety measures such as not including a backup driver option. On the other side, proponents described the future of driving for those with disabilities and of auto-pilot tractors that have diminished accidents at night.
The combination of the new legislation, CDOT testing of autonomous construction vehicles and Peña Station Next puts Colorado in pole position in the autonomous driving race.