The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to apply for a grant of up to $10 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to test autonomous vehicles.
Councilman David Ryu introduced a motion earlier this month calling on the city to apply for the grant and said the program is focused on safety, collecting data for safety analysis and rulemaking, and collaboration. The award ceiling for each application is $10 million and no local match is required.
On Dec. 21, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration issued a notice of funding availability for the Automated Driving System Demonstration Grants for the purpose of testing integration of automated driving systems across the nation.
Ryu’s motion says that the city’s 2018-19 budget appropriated $1 million in Measure M funds to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation for contractual services to “proactively engage in modeling scenarios, design thinking, and community engagement with connected and autonomous vehicle experts. These local funds would be leveraged by the ADS grant funds to expand the city’s work to include testing new autonomous transit bus technology and the parking needs of autonomous buses in service yards.”
The City Council last year signaled it wants to take a more active role in the development of federal and state autonomous vehicle regulations, and also support an increase of local government access to AV data.
Autonomous vehicles were approved in 2018 for road tests in California, but a series of fatal accidents involving the autos have raised questions about their reliability.
The council passed a resolution last April that says the city “should support this new technology and take an active role in the development of federal and state AV regulations,” while also pointing out that Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2017 was appointed co-chair of a federal advisory committee on automation and AV technology.
The mayor’s role on the committee “provides the city an unparalleled opportunity to shape the implementation of AV,” according to the resolution, which says the city should support any state or federal legislation that would increase local government access to data, such as accidents and unplanned disengagements. It also says the city should support legislation that would prioritize the need for standardized operating plans or law enforcement personnel, and other regulations.
The resolution was approved 11-1, with Councilman Paul Koretz casting the dissenting vote.
“The thing that’s missing I think is urging some caution, as well, and urging that these vehicles aren’t tested on our public streets,” Koretz said before the vote last year. “That when they are fully tested and are declared to be safe, then we get on the bandwagon, but until then we encourage adequate testing of scenarios and flaws in the system and make sure we’re not endangering our residents by what we’re encouraging.”