Baker-Polito Administration and Local Officials Sign Regional Agreement for Autonomous Vehicle Testing

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2018
Contact: MassDOT Press Office: 857-368-8500

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration’s Department of Transportation today entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with several mayors of cities and towns in order to further facilitate and expand the testing of autonomous vehicles on roadways in the Commonwealth. Governor Charlie Baker joined Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation Leo Roy, Mayor of Somerville and Chair of the Metro Mayors Coalition Joseph A. Curtatone, local leaders, and industry representatives at a formal MOU signing ceremony in South Boston.

The new MOU streamlines and standardizes the process for companies seeking to test Autonomous Vehicles on Massachusetts roadways. Following the signing of this MOU, MassDOT and the participating communities will finalize a universal application for companies to use when seeking to test Autonomous Vehicles and the participating municipalities will identify locations and roadways suitable for Autonomous Vehicle testing.

The municipalities signing the MOU today include Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Revere, Somerville, Weymouth, Winthrop, and Worcester. In addition, the Department of Conservation and Recreation is joining the MOU in order to make Commonwealth-owned parkways available for the testing of Autonomous Vehicles.

“This agreement will allow companies to responsibly develop and test autonomous vehicle technology in Massachusetts, while ensuring there are uniform safety guidelines in place,” said Governor Baker. “The MOU builds on the existing Autonomous Vehicle testing framework while simplifying the process for municipalities to work with innovative companies that are seeking to advance transportation, create jobs in our nation leading innovation economy, and improve our quality of life in the Commonwealth.”

“Cities and towns participating in today’s announcement will now be able to partner with companies and facilitate safe testing of self-driving vehicles on their roadways,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By creating a standardized process and working collectively with local officials, we can generate economic growth and support our communities as they play a role in the future of innovation and motor vehicle automation.”

The MOU establishes a pathway – a simplified version of the process currently in place in the Commonwealth – for companies wishing to test automated vehicles in Massachusetts. Using a revised testing application, companies will be able to simultaneously work with multiple communities to test new vehicle technologies in a range of environments, neighborhoods, and road types. The application will need to demonstrate that the vehicle to be tested has passed a Registry of Motor Vehicles inspection, can be operated without undue risk to public safety, and at all times will have a human being inside the vehicle while it is traveling.

“Today’s event marks an important milestone in how we as a region handle a new technology with tremendous potential benefits,” said Rebecca Davis, Deputy Director of MAPC. “By signing a regional agreement, we are saying that municipalities can and should work together, but we are also giving them the tools to decide where, when, and how this testing takes place.”

“I want to thank Governor Baker for working to develop a forward-looking approach to AV policy in collaboration with municipalities,” said Mayor Curtatone. “The common framework for AV road testing will now lay the groundwork for effective, safe, and targeted testing that meets the needs of each of our communities. New technologies and services such as ride hailing and autonomous vehicles have the potential to advance our area’s core goals around mobility, safety, equity and sustainability, and we are most likely to discover the best new solutions for metro Boston when we all work in partnership.”

“Our greatest priority with the testing of Autonomous Vehicles is to ensure the safety of all users of our transportation system,” said Secretary Pollack. “This MOU will help MassDOT continue collaborating with industry leaders and local communities in advancing this technology and allowing safe testing on pre-selected roadways and in defined environmental conditions.”

“The Baker-Polito Administration recognizes the importance of fostering an environment that not only supports, but also encourages advancements within the technology and transportation sectors to better position Massachusetts within the global economy,” said Commissioner Roy. “By signing this Memorandum of Understanding, the Department of Conservation and Recreation is able to work with stakeholders to set very clear and concise standards for the testing of autonomous vehicles, which will streamline the process for many companies seeking to pursue driverless vehicle technologies.”

The initial framework for testing Autonomous Vehicles on Massachusetts roadways was created in October 2016, when Governor Baker signed Executive Order 572, “To Promote the Testing and Deployment of Highly Automated Driving Technologies.” This Executive Order also created the Autonomous Vehicle Working Group, which is continuing to convene and consult with experts on motor vehicle safety and automation and encourage the development of automated vehicle technologies in Massachusetts.