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Ohio governor says you ‘have to take risks’ as state welcomes driverless cars

Many questions may still be unanswered over the fatality of an Arizona pedestrian after being hit by one of Uber’s self-driving cars in March, but that hasn’t stopped Ohio Governor John Kasich from issuing an executive order making it the latest state to allow the testing of such vehicles on its public roads.

Kasich gave the go ahead for trials of autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads on Wednesday, May 9. Other states that allow self-driving cars on their streets include California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and, as we already mentioned, Arizona.

Similar to Arizona and, more recently, California, companies will have the option to put their autonomous cars on Ohio’s roads without a safety driver behind the wheel, though in this case a licensed operator will be required to monitor the car remotely and must have the means to take over if its technology malfunctions, Bloomberg reported. Waymo is already conducting tests with remote safety drivers in Arizona, and recently applied to do the same in California.

Kaisch has set up a body called DriveOhio to which any accidents must be reported. DriveOhio will also work to bring public and private sectors together in a bid to advance the development and deployment of smart mobility and autonomous and connected vehicles, according to its website.

Despite concerns over safety following the Arizona tragedy, Kaisch appears determined to push Ohio as a hub for driverless-vehicle technology and testing in the hope that it could lead to inward investment and job creation in the state. According to Bloomberg, the governor said he felt a sense of anger when he heard about Uber choosing Pittsburgh as a base for developing and testing its autonomous technology, asking his colleagues repeatedly, “What are we doing here?”

Kaisch described the Uber accident in which 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg died as “terrible,” but on the subject of testing the technology on public roads, he said, “You’ll always have to take risks.”

It’s not clear when tests will start in Ohio. It depends entirely on which companies view the opportunity as useful as they move forward with the development of their respective autonomous technologies.

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Trevor Mogg
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