Self-driv­ing cars al­lowed to drive on more Bos­ton roads


Self-driv­ing cars have been cleared to tackle more roads in Bos­ton.

Cam­bridge-based au­ton­o­mous car com­pany nuTon­omy has been test­ing its self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles in South Bos­ton’s Ray­mond L. Flynn Ma­rine Park since Jan­uary.

The cars, which do have a per­son be­hind the wheel in case of emer­gen­cies dur­ing test­ing, now have the green light to branch out into the Sea­port and Fort Point neigh­bor­hoods.

NuTon­omy CEO and co-founder Karl Iag­nemma said in a state­ment that four months of test­ing within the ma­rine park’s 191 acres have yielded “ex­cel­lent re­sults.” But, he said the ex­panded test­ing bound­aries will present ad­di­tional ob­sta­cles for the self-driv­ing cars.

Those new ob­sta­cles will in­clude traf­fic sig­nals, bridges, over­passes and un­der­passes, mul­ti­lane roads and a ro­tary, he said. The cars will have “in­creased in­ter­ac­tion with ve­hi­cles, cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans.”

The park that the cars have been driv­ing in has no traf­fic lights, but does al­low for some in­ter­ac­tion with pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists and other cars. Still, the new test­ing ar­eas will have sig­nif­i­cantly more ac­tiv­ity.

“This de­vel­op­ment will al­low the so­phis­ti­cated au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle soft­ware sys­tem we’ve pi­o­neered to quickly adapt to Bos­ton’s com­plex driv­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” Iag­nemma said.

As has been the com­pany’s prac­tice, a nuTon­omy en­gi­neer will con­tinue to ride along in the car, ready to take over con­trols if nec­es­sary.

If test­ing continues to go well, the pro­gram can ex­pand to al­low the cars to drive dur­ing more dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, like in the rain or at night.

City of­fi­cials wrote to Iag­nemma and the nuTon­omy team on Mon­day, con­grat­u­lat­ing them on the au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle test­ing so far. The let­ter in­cluded the new cityap­proved roads but noted that use of MassPort road­ways is de­pen­dent upon a sep­a­rate agree­ment with the state Port Author­ity.

“Sup­port­ing safe road­ways now and in the fu­ture is a vi­tal part of cre­at­ing sus­tain­able, eq­ui­table modes of trans­porta­tion in our city, as out­lined in our Go Bos­ton 2030 plan,” Bos­ton Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment Com­mis­sioner Gina Fian­daca said in a state­ment. “I’m pleased nuTon­omy has safely tested over 230 miles, and look for­ward to the next stage of this in­no­va­tive part­ner­ship.”

A nuTon­omy self-driv­ing car in Bos­ton. COURTESY OF NUTON­OMY

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