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Beverly Hills wants to be a testing ground for self-driving cars

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The city is also planning a driverless shuttle system

Google autonomous vehicle
An autonomous vehicle designed by Google
smoothgroover22 | creative commons

Less than a month after Uber took its fleet of self-driving cars and abandoned California for Arizona, Beverly Hills is getting serious about turning its streets into testing grounds for autonomous vehicles.

On Friday, local officials announced that the city had applied to the US Department of Transportation to become a testing location for the driverless automobiles, arguing that Beverly Hills could provide a “varied driving environment and commitment to safety.”

In a press release, Mayor John Mirisch said that the city “should be a policy leader in this emerging technology.”

He also praised the potential of driverless cars to liberate residents from the oppressive nature of regular old transit options, arguing that “autonomous vehicles have the potential to democratize public transportation by creating an efficient, first-choice system of mobility that Southern Californians use because they want to, not because they have to.”

Should the Department of Transportation approve the city’s application, Beverly Hills would then need to apply for a permit for the vehicles from the California Department of Motor Vehicles—a step Uber was stubbornly unwilling to take.

In the meantime, the city will need to find a carmaker partner looking for a new testing site. According to the release, the city is seeking companies that can provide the “‘smartest’ and safest vehicles.”

It’s not the first time that the city has expressed interest in bringing autonomous vehicles to its streets. In April, the City Council voted to develop an on-demand shuttle system relying on the driverless cars. Beverly Hills is reportedly “developing relationships” with MIT and Carnegie Mellon University to help build the system. It also plans to host a conference focusing on autonomous vehicles later this year.