Hawaii takes next step to encourage development of driverless technology

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The idea of a self-driving car is becoming more of a reality in Hawaii.

In fact, some vehicles already have self-driving features.

Last month, Gov. David Ige signed an executive order to let companies that want to do self-driving tests know that Hawaii is open to doing business.

Ford Fuchigami, administrative director of the governor’s office, tells us the state does not have the infrastructure yet, and needs to add fifth-generation wireless or 5G technology soon.

Fuchigami says they’ve heard from interested parties, which is one of the reasons why the governor signed an executive order.

But when we asked who or how many, he couldn’t say, because it’s competitive.

Even at the state level, other governors across the nation are wanting companies to come and start a pilot project, but what Hawaii has to offer is pretty good weather.

The state is welcoming companies to test connected autonomous vehicles or CAVs — vehicles that have no driver and are connected to a GPS or software system.

We asked Fuchigami what infrastructure is needed for CAVs.

“Right now, we don’t know exactly what we need,” said Fuchigami. “But what we do this is 5G, which will be very important to the state of Hawaii in terms of technology.”

But what about the conditions of our roads? We asked how will smart vehicles differentiate our potholes and squiggly lines we have on our freeways.

“That’s something that we are going to have to take a look at through the pilot program,” he said. “Based on what we’ve looked at so far, potholes have not really come into play. The technology right now and what we are trying to design for is for ideal conditions.”

Fuchigami tells us the state wants to look at CAVs’ capabilities of driving in Hawaii first. Practical applications will be looked into later.

“Again, with 5G and the fact that we would be able to go ahead and navigate through that type of technology, we are hoping that we are able to do so, but that would only occur after the pilot program is over,” he said.

In the meantime, the state is working on an autonomous vehicle pilot project at the airport in Honolulu.

“We are going to take an existing shuttle bus, obviously it’s going to have a driver in it. We are going to put GPS on it, cameras on it, sensors on it, so you know when you getting close to the curb,” said Fuchigami. “What this thing will do is gather all this information and say okay, this is what we need when it comes to actually building an autonomous vehicle for this particular function.”

The state says until it gets a proposal from companies like Google or Tesla, it doesn’t know exactly when the pilot project will start.

The project at the airport could start sometime after 2020.

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