Wyoming official focused on infrastructure ahead of autonomous vehicle normalization

Bill Panos says the pilot program in Wyoming is a big first step.
Bill Panos says the pilot program in Wyoming is a big first step. (GRAYDC)
Published: Jun. 13, 2018 at 4:15 PM EDT
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Vehicle innovation is posing new challenges for communities. A Wyoming transportation leader is in Washington discussing infrastructure needs for new technologies, including driverless cars. The Cowboy State is on the front lines of the transportation revolution.

Testifying in front of a Senate Committee Wednesday, Bill Panos, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation says the U.S. needs to get its infrastructure ready for new technology and eventually autonomous vehicles.

“It’ll make folks lives’ better by saving lives and by reducing the number of crashes,” said Panos.

He says information sharing is important for safety on highways like I-80. Panos says connected and automated vehicles are starting to share information and warn other connected cars about crashes, weather alerts, speed restrictions, and more. Wyoming is testing this technology in a pilot program.

“This is the first step...first big step,” said Panos.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) invited Panos to testify. He says this conversation needs to happen now for cars with drivers and eventually without drivers.

“It’s a feedback mechanism long-term for autonomous vehicles, but today, for our drivers on the road,” said Barrasso.

Cathy Chase from a highway safety group says more research and regulation are needed. She doesn’t support using I-80 for testing.

“What we are opposed to is the beta testing on our public roadways. The public should not be used as testing grounds,” said Chase.

Chase is also worried that the Senate is rushing to normalize autonomous vehicles. She says she has not seen research indicating these vehicles are safe. She wants to see proof before making driverless cars part of everyday life.

“There’s still a need for a lot more information. There are more questions than answers at this point,” said Chase.

Wyoming has been using emergency response vehicles for testing. Panos says they will add commercial vehicles this winter

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