Illi­nois mov­ing for­ward on self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - News - By MaryWis­niewski mwis­niewski@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @mary­wiz­chicago

“This is what we’ve been wait­ing for — some di­rec­tion from the state.” — Ro­man Kuropas, CEO and founder of In­nova EV, based in Burr Ridge

Illi­nois is tak­ing the first step to­ward putting self­driv­ing ve­hi­cleson­the road, but it may be some time be­fore they get there.

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thurs­day signed an ex­ec­u­tive order creat­ing the Au­tonomous Illi­nois Ini­tia­tive, which sets guide­lines for test­ing the tech­nol­ogy and shar­ing in­for­ma­tion be­tween de­vel­op­ers, re­searchers and state agen­cies. Test­ing of au­tonomous ve­hi­cles will re­quire a driver to re­main be­hind the wheel, ca­pa­ble of tak­ing con­trol of the ve­hi­cle at all times, ac­cord­ing to the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

“This is what we’ve been wait­ing for — some di­rec­tion from the state,” said Ro­man Kuropas, CEO and founder of Burr Ridge­based In­nova EV, which is cur­rently test­ing self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles at Ohio State Univer­sity.

“We­want to be able to do it in our own­back­yard,” said Kuropas, whose com­pany

uses small golf cart-like elec­tric ve­hi­cles for rideshar­ing.

Illi­nois State Po­lice, the Illi­noisToll­way, the Depart­ment of In­sur­ance, and the Depart­ment of Com­merce and Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity will as­sist with the pro­gram. The state will con­nect com­mu­ni­ties that want to host test­ing with com­pa­nies, uni­ver­si­ties and re­search in­sti­tu­tions.

Since hu­man er­ror is be­hind more than 90 per­cent of fa­tal­wrecks, the use of au­tonomous ve­hi­cles could save lives, IDOT Sec­re­tary Randy Blanken­horn said.

“If you take that driver out of the equa­tion, you’re look­ing at a safer sys­tem,” he­said at anews­con­fer­ence in a park­ing lot at Guar­an­teed Rate Field.

There are nu­mer­ous ques­tions about au­tonomous tech­nol­ogy that still need to be re­solved. One prob­lem is that drivers as­signed to be be­hind the wheel of self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles tend to get bored, so they may not re­act quickly to an emer­gency, ac­cord­ing to tech­nol­ogy ex­perts.

The state cur­rently is work­ing with North­west­ern Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Illi­nois’ Ur­banaCham­paign and Chicago cam­puses on a test track for au­tonomous ve­hi­cles in down­state Ran­toul, about 15 miles north of Cham­paign.

Penn­syl­va­nia, Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia al­ready are test­ing au­tonomous ve­hi­cles. Last spring, Uber Tech­nolo­gies stopped its self-driv­ing car op­er­a­tion in Ari­zona af­ter a pedes­trian was killed in a crash in­volv­ing one of its cars.

ZBIGNIEW BZDAK/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

In­nova EV founder Ro­man Kuropas, left, talks Thurs­day with Randy Kowal­ski about his au­tonomous-driv­ing-ca­pa­ble car dur­ing the launch of the Au­tonomous Illi­nois Ini­tia­tive.

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