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Federal lawmakers seek boost to driverless car testing in Ohio

WASHINGTON (WISH) – Ohio lawmakers want to boost automated vehicle testing in the state.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking the U.S. Transportation secretary to reverse an Obama-era policy that keeps the Transportation Research Center in Ohio from getting federal money to test self-driving cars. 

Ohio lawmakers say the center is the perfect place to test self-driving cars. They say it’s the largest and most sophisticated independent vehicle testing ground in North America. 

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Ohio, said, “They can test in different road conditions, different weather conditions, wind conditions. They can simulate almost anything.” 

That’s why lawmakers say they were puzzled when the Obama administration left East Liberty’s Transportation Research Center off a list of nationally designated test sites for autonomous vehicles. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Ohio, said, “It was odd.” 

Stivers said the 10 testing centers that made the list have access to certain partnerships and federal funding.

“There was $20 million in an appropriations bill that we put in for these test tracks,” Stivers said.

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Ohio is being shut out for no reason. They’re asking Chao to reconsider. 

Johnson said, “Ohio has always been on the leading edge of tech innovation.” 

The congressman also said it just makes sense to test driverless cars at the center because it’s already home to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association vehicle research and testing center. 

“They have expertise there that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world,” Johnson said. 

Stivers and Johnson say testing driverless cars is critical. 

“Autonomous vehicles are an incredible opportunity for our future, but they have to be safe,” Stiver said. 

They want Ohio to lead the way.