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Arizona creates wide-ranging plan to pave way for self-driving vehicles

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PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the creation of a public-private enterprise designed to safely pave the way to the future for self-driving vehicles.

The Institute for Automated Mobility, a consortium of technology business leaders, university researchers and government agencies, was publicly unveiled at Thursday night’s DesTechAZ Evening of Innovation and Celebration event in Phoenix.

The institute will set out to prepare the state for the expansion of autonomous vehicle technology, with a focus on liability, regulatory and safety implications.

Founding partners of the institute include tech giant Intel, the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

The Arizona Commerce Authority will oversee the project and direct its mission.

The state so far has kicked in $1.5 million, which came from old small business loans that have since been repaid. Intel is investing an undisclosed amount.

Once in place, the institute will be able to conduct complex research and testing of autonomous transportation. A location for the Arizona facility was not disclosed.

The state departments of transportation and public safety will integrate the needs of law enforcement and first responders into the program.

Ducey named Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, leader of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU, as his Advisor for Science and Technology.

In that role, Panchanathan will manage the institute’s strategy and direct projects.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, autonomous vehicles can boost road safety, deliver economic benefits, reduce traffic and increase mobility options.

Arizona has been a leader in the development of self-driving vehicles since 2015, when Ducey signed an executive order to create a welcoming environment to companies working on the technology.

Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving vehicle unit, has a large presence in the Phoenix area.

Other companies, including Uber, have done testing in the state. Uber, however, ended its program in Arizona after one its autonomous SUVs struck and killed a woman in Tempe in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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