Austin welcomes self-driving cars with new resolution

Audi engineers are in Austin talking to local and state leaders about autonomous vehicle technology (Courtesy Amanda Brandeis)
Audi engineers are in Austin talking to local and state leaders about autonomous vehicle technology (Courtesy Amanda Brandeis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council wants to lead the world in finding solutions for electric and self-driving cars. They approved a resolution Thursday morning directing the city manager to develop a plan to help shift the city’s transportation system to one that enables “Shared, Electric, and Autonomous Mobility Services.”

The council hopes these vehicles will help address some mobility, affordability and environmental challenges. They’re asking that the plan include measurable interim greenhouse gas reduction targets to support a goal previously set by council. Council Member Ann Kitchen sponsored the resolution and Mayor Adler was the co-sponsor.

“Austin should be to automated vehicles what Detroit was to the last century of automakers,” Mayor Adler said on Thursday.

Next week Adler will join a select group of mayors to discuss the future of the industry in metropolitan cities.

As cities work to prepare for the future of self-driving cars, automakers are racing to make them available to the public. Nearly every large automaker has announced plans to create one, including Audi. This week, Audi engineers are in Austin talking to city and state leaders about the technology, which could be on the market as early as next year.

“This is our concept car we call Jack. Jack has the capability to drive by itself on freeways,” said Kaushik Raghu, an Audi principal engineer. “Level three is where the driver is not required to put his or her hands on the wheel, and the car will handle all the dynamic driving such as staying in the lanes, accelerating and braking.”

The autonomous car helps eliminate distracted driving and human error.

Raghu is demonstrating how the vehicle works for Texas lawmakers, answering questions they may have about the technology.

State Rep. Larry Phillips of District 62 says he’s in favor of paving the way for the industry to thrive in the state.

“As a Texas lawmaker, what I want to make sure we do is that we don’t put burdens on this industry. That we say Texas is wide open to see developments of this type of industry,” said Phillips.

Phillips hope it will help to reduce the number of deaths on Texas roads.

The city hopes the New Mobility Electric Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle (EV/AV) Plan will address on-demand mobility, accessibility and reduced transportation costs, reduced congestion, improved air quality, and mobility for seniors, persons with disabilities, and others without a driver’s license or means to access a car.

They’re also considering creating a new position for the city, a Chief Officer of EV/AV transportation services.

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