Nebraska City Plans to Study Driverless Vehicle Possibilities

November 29, 2017

The city of Lincoln, Neb., has signed a nearly $100,000 contract with an engineering consultant to study how the city could one day implement driverless vehicles.

HDR Inc.’s study will examine the latest technology, describe a potential pilot project, provide business models for future service, and study insurance and potential law changes, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

“We want to be proactive and not reactive,” said Lonnie Burklund, assistant director of transportation for the Public Works and Utilities Department. “We want to have some documentation and a thorough analysis of what does this new technology mean for Lincoln. We want to be able to future-proof our own system and be ready for this potential wave of the future.”

Though the city didn’t secure a $50 million Smart Cities grant to create a citywide driverless shuttle service in 2016, city officials are still determined to be in the forefront of the driverless car movement.

“Technology in this area is changing so rapidly, we wanted to get our arms around what is the latest and greatest,” Burklund said.

The study will help guide city officials as they upgrade intersections through the Green Light Lincoln project, Burklund said.

“I am hoping we can sort of future-proof our signal upgrades … learn how vehicles will talk to each other, how they will talk with the infrastructure,” Burklund said.

The study will focus on what’s needed to create a driverless downtown shuttle, Burklund said. While there isn’t state funding available for driverless vehicle projects, the city hopes to become a pilot project by working with the private sector or through public-private partnerships, she said.

“After all, Lincoln is the Silicon Prairie. We have some smart folks here, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, at local firms,” Burklund said.

The study is expected to finish by spring.

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