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NY budget deal extends test/demo period for self-driving cars

Companies have another year to test and demonstrate self-driving cars on New York roads, according to a provision in a state budget bill approved by lawmakers Friday.

The provision extends the trial period for autonomous cars until April 2019 in order “to begin identifying potential impacts of such technology on safety, traffic control, traffic enforcement, emergency services” and other areas of concern.

The measure tweaks the driverless-car provision first passed by state legislators last year. It exempts the demonstrations from a state law prohibiting hands-free driving. In addition, it requires carmakers to submit instructions to law enforcement and first responders on how to interact with the vehicles during emergencies and traffic stops.

The cars must meet state and federal safety requirements and have $5 million insurance policies.

Long Island legislators were mixed on the extension.

“I think we do need to take a step back before we continue with this, and make sure it’s safe for the general public,” said Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue), who voted against the bill containing the provision.

Murray cited the fatal accident involving a self-driving car in Arizona in March as a cause for concern.

Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon), who voted in favor of the bill, said such incidents make additional tests more necessary.

“There needs to be a more comprehensive, in-depth study,” she said.

Both legislators sit on the Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

Driverless vehicles are expected to become increasingly common, with some experts estimating they will make up a majority of cars on the road by 2040, according to a 2017 report by the Manhattan-based Regional Plan Association.

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