Connecticut May Be The Next State to Allow Self-Driving Car Tests

The state will allow testing in up to four towns or cities.

byStephen Edelstein|
Self-Driving Tech photo

Connecticut is launching a pilot program to allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads within its borders. The state government is inviting towns and cities to apply to become test sites, and will select up to four municipalities to participate in the program. The goal is to position Connecticut as a technology leader.

"Make no mistake, autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation, whether it is people looking for a safer and easier way to commute, more efficient and cheaper commercial transit, more precise ride-sharing or for-hire services, or beyond," Governor Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement. "These vehicles are going to be part of our lives soon and we want to take proactive steps to have our state be at the forefront of this innovative technology. We are showing this industry and those around the country that we promote the development of these kinds of forward-thinking, technology-driven products in Connecticut. We cannot allow our state to be  outpaced as this technology grows."

The desire to project a forward-thinking image (as well as attract investment from automakers and tech companies) is a common motivator for states in explicitly legalizing autonomous-car testing. The potential perils of that attitude recently became apparent when a fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving car occurred in Arizona, a state that has gained a reputation for using unrestrictive regulations to lure autonomous-car developers. The state suspended Uber's testing permit after the crash.

Connecticut will take a more cautious approach than some other states. Testing will be limited to the four designated municipalities, and cars will also be allowed to operate only in certain areas. They won't be allowed onto limited-access highways, reports the Hartford Courant, and human safety drivers will be required.

Connecticut's Office of Policy and Management will oversee the application process. Municipalities will need to submit plans that include testing locations, goals, a public education strategy, and whether any companies have been contacted, according to the Courant. The agency told the paper that several municipalities have already expressed interest. While it is accepting applications, the state government did not discuss a timeline for the beginning of the pilot program.