Autonomous vehicle testing in the Lone Star State may determine how quickly the self-driving era becomes a reality.

Autonomous vehicles are coming to Texas

It’s a throw of the dice as to when fully autonomous vehicles will be available for purchase. However, you can bet on the fact that their reliability will play a big role in how quickly they come to the market. And Texas, according to a recent announcement, will be one of the testing grounds for self-driving vehicles.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation informed officials in Texas that the Lone Star State would be one of 10 states where automated vehicles will go under the microscope, the Texas Department of Transportation reported. The announcement comes following one made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration back in September, stating the government hopes to expedite the production process to make the nation’s roads safer and less congested.

“[Approximately] 94% of crashes on U.S. roadways are caused by a human choice or error,” noted former NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, Ph.D. “We are moving forward on the safe deployment of automated technologies because of the enormous promise they hold to address the overwhelming majority of crashes and save lives.”

Traffic situation makes testing in Texas ideal

Second only to California in population, Texas highways are heavily congested, particularly in major metropolitan areas like Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. In addition to Texas auto insurance policy purchases, home sales have skyrocketed, sending list prices to record levels, according to the Texas Association of Realtors. A median priced home in 2016 cost nearly 8% more than in 2015.

“Texas’ booming population and economy make it an ideal test site for automated and connected vehicle technology,” explained Marc Williams, TXDOT’s executive director. “This technology is increasingly being developed and tailored to address congestion and increase safety, by reducing human error.”

He further stated that autonomous vehicles need to be vetted comprehensively to ensure that they’re of top quality and safe for motorists to use.

Americans’ doubt the safety of automated technology

Even though many experts attest to self-driving cars being safer to drive than traditional passenger vehicles – mainly because they’re designed to eliminate the most common reason for accidents, human error – many Americans have their doubts. Indeed, almost three-fourths of respondents in a recent poll done by Deloitte said they didn’t believe autonomous cars will reduce accidents. These suspicions are more common than not throughout the world, with 81% percent of people from South Korea expressing their skepticism, 64% from India and 62% from China. In descending order, China, India, and the U.S. are the world’s most-populous countries.

“Today, trust is lacking,” explained Craig Giffi, Deloitte’s vice chairman of the firm’s automotive industry division. “Ironically, fully autonomous vehicles are being engineered to be much safer than today’s vehicles.”

The hope is autonomous driving results from the 10 testing locations will assuage the non-believers. Nearly three dozen municipal and regional partners are involved in the Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership, including the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research, and the Southwest Research Institute.

Legal considerations are another aspect to the realization of autonomous vehicles. However, nearly a dozen states have passed laws pertaining to them, including Virginia, Utah, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and California, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More states are likely to join the list, as 20 legislatures introduced bills that have yet to be voted on. Even then, the governor must give his or her signature to become law.

Here at Elephant, we’re cautiously optimistic about autonomous vehicles and their ability to make the roads safer. We look forward to what the tests show and will keep you abreast of the latest developments.