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States get ready for the self-driving car revolution

States get ready for the self-driving car revolution
CLOSE States get ready for the self-driving car revolution

Self-driving cars could be on our roads in just 5 years. USA TODAY's Chris Woodyard takes a look at what it's going to take to get the roads ready. Video by Robert Hanashiro and Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY

A USA TODAY Network survey of nearly a dozen states hoping to lead the way in autonomous vehicles reveals varying degrees of readiness across the nation

States get ready for the self-driving car revolution

The Google self-driving car project and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles partnered in developing a self-driving minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica. (Photo: Webb Bland, PR NEWSWIRE)

Self-driving vehicles are synonymous with sophisticated sensors producing terabytes of data being analyzed by powerful computers. But it seems the success of this transportation revolution hinges on a decidedly low-tech material: Paint.

That's because when it comes to getting the nation’s infrastructure ready for autonomous traffic, the most critical upgrade amounts to making sure the lines on our 4 million miles of roads are solid, bright and preferably white so they can be picked up by computer vision gear.

“The (self-driving car companies) actually said make sure you have really good paint lines,” says Kirk Steudle, director of Michigan’s Department of Transportation. “So, where there are lines, we have to make sure they’re really good.”

If only things were that simple. A USA TODAY Network survey of nearly a dozen states hoping to lead the way in self-driving cars and trucks reveals varying degrees of readiness as officials balance anticipating a huge shift in mobility with a reluctance to spend limited infrastructure funds on the wrong improvements.

That one-foot-in, one-foot-out stance is echoed in guidelines recently published by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

In doling out advice for state officials on the coming age of self-driving cars, the recommendations balance action (“Be a player in your state”) with caution (“Be flexible, this is a new game.”)

While some states such as California, Michigan, Arizona and Ohio are eagerly welcoming self-driving vehicle tests and beginning to make upgrades to roads to accommodate robot-driven vehicles, others are taking a more measured approach given the nascent state of the industry.

“I want to see the manufacturers succeed, because my ultimate goal is to ensure public safety on the road,” says Mark Kopko, manager of advanced vehicle technology for Pennsylvania’s DOT.

Twin potholes lurk in the road ahead

Two factors make it difficult for states, however eager, to dive headlong into concrete infrastructure improvements, whether that’s painting lane stripes or embedding sensors in roads and traffic signals.

The first is a lack of national vision for autonomous vehicles. During his fall campaign, President Trump promised to spend upwards of $1 trillion on infrastructure needs. But so far there is no road map for securing such funds or determining how they’ll be deployed or whether self-driving car-related work will be included.

The Obama administration set out proposed guidelines for how companies can effectively self-regulate U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said this month in Detroit that the Trump administration is "reviewing and updating this policy to incorporate feedback and

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Cities vie to become hubs of self-driving technology

Cities vie to become hubs of self-driving technology
CLOSE Cities vie to become hubs of self-driving technology

Are Detroit and the Silicon Valley the hotbeds for driverless car development? Not necessarily, says Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press. Video by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

Cities that have emerged as leaders in autonomous vehicle testing and innovation have some combination of leading corporations, cutting edge university research and enthusiastic political support

AP UBER AUTONOMUS CARS F A USA PA

A self-driving Uber car drives down River Road on Pittsburgh's north side. (Photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP)

The development of self-driving cars has pitched a handful of cities into a new gold rush, a chance to be at the forefront of a new technology that will give rise to billion-dollar companies and thousands of new jobs.

The stakes are enormous. Last year, Goldman Sachs projected the market for advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles would grow from about $3 billion in 2015 to $96 billion in 2025 and $290 billion in 2035.

In some cities, automakers, suppliers and technology companies are clustering to test their self-driving vehicles. In others, governors and mayors are beckoning the industry by changing laws or touting other inducements.

“I think it’s about being a part of the race,” said Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus Partnership, a group of top CEOs that helped the Ohio city beat out tech hubs such as Austin, Pittsburgh and San Francisco to win federal grant money through the government's Smart City Challenge.

Related:

Cities are taking different paths to success. In Detroit, for instance, major corporations form the backbone for the emerging technology. In others — such as Boston, Pittsburgh and Austin — universities with cutting-edge research have spawned talented engineers and start-up companies.

Here are the nation's hot spots that have emerged as leaders in the race to self-driving cars:

Austin

Austin Mayor Steve Adler likes to refer to Texas' capital city as “the Kitty Hawk of driverless cars,” referencing the site of the Wright Brothers' first flight in 1903.

That's because Google's self-driving car unit, Waymo, quietly chose Austin for the first fully-autonomous test drive in 2015. Now Austin officials want more.

"We are trying to do everything we can to help promote and advance the future of this technology," Adler said. "We think it’s the wave of the future. We think it is going to help our city."

The city and the state have put political differences aside to embrace partnerships and legislation designed to attract testing and investment. Austin is a part of a statewide consortium that includes the University of Texas and Texas A&M University to create a network of proving grounds and testing areas.

—  Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press

Boston

In October, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced policies intended to put the city at the forefront.

"Boston is ready to lead the charge on self-driving vehicles," Walsh said in a statement.

Area technology companies are already at work. NuTonomy, a company that emerged from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013, is working with French automaker PSA Groupe on a self-driving car.

— Brent Snavely, Detroit

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Lamb, Diamondbacks rally past Phillies 9-2

AP Published 1:21 a.m. ET June 25, 2017 | Updated 16 minutes ago

Lamb, Diamondbacks rally past Phillies 9-2

Arizona Diamondbacks' Robbie Ray (38) celebrates after scoring against the Philadelphia Phillies, with Paul Goldschmidt, left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) (Photo: The Associated Press)

PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Herrmann's quick reflexes behind the plate and his bat came up big for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The catcher delivered the game's key play, lunging to his right to grab a wide throw from third baseman Jake Lamb while dragging a foot onto home plate for a force out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

Reliever Archie Bradley then struck out the next hitter, and the Diamondbacks cruised to a 9-2 win.

Herrmann also drove in three runs, Lamb homered and Daniel Descalso had three hits to lead Arizona.

"I don't really know how to describe what was going through my head," Herrmann said. "The athleticism just kind of takes over in our bodies and we just kind of react, and cool things happen."

The Diamondbacks broke open a one-run game with three runs in the sixth and got another effective pitching performance from Robbie Ray (8-3), who allowed two runs and six hits through 6 1/3 innings.

Ray is 6-0 over his last seven starts with a 1.31 ERA in that span. He had five strikeouts and four walks.

"He was effective with all of his pitches at all times. I know there were a few walks," manager Torey Lovullo said of Ray. "Overall it was a really good outing."

Phillies starter Ben Lively (1-2) hit a two-run home run for his first career RBIs, but gave up four earned runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

"I was pretty pumped up about that, and after that I kind of stayed a little bit too pumped up," Lively said.

In the seventh, Aaron Altherr greeted Bradley with a smash to third base. Lamb fielded and threw up the first base side to home plate, but Herrmann got the force and prevented an error.

Bradley struck out Tommy Joseph to end the inning.

"If the ball gets by him, I think two runs score and we're talking about a whole different situation," Lovullo said.

The Diamondbacks scored their runs in the sixth on Lamb's 17th homer of the season, Herrmann's RBI single off reliever Hoby Milner and David Peralta being hit by a pitch from Milner with the bases loaded.

Milner made his major league debut.

Arizona added three more runs in the seventh, all with two outs. Herrmann's double just avoided being touched by a fan who reached over the right-field fence as the ball caromed, and two runs scored. Herrmann came home on Nick Ahmed's pinch-hit double.

Peralta and Brandon Drury drove in two runs each for the Diamondbacks. The crowd of 40,557 on Star Wars Night was the largest at Chase Field since the home opener.

ADVENTURES WITH ODUBEL

Another

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McCullers solid in return as Astros top Mariners 5-2

AP Published 1:36 a.m. ET June 25, 2017 | Updated 12 minutes ago

McCullers solid in return as Astros top Mariners 5-2

Houston Astros Josh Reddick runs after hitting a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond) (Photo: The Associated Press)

SEATTLE (AP) — Lance McCullers felt really good about his first game back off the disabled list — although it took him a while to get used to it.

The Astros right-hander pitched into the sixth inning, Josh Reddick homered and Brian McCann added a three-run double to lift Houston to a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.

McCullers (7-1), who had been sidelined with lower back discomfort, allowed one run on four hits in five-plus innings. He struck out eight and walked none in his first start since June 8.

"You just feel really, really fresh, so that's something to get used to," McCullers said. "But, I got out there and just trusted Mac (catcher McCann), and tried to think about my mechanics more than how my arm was feeling. And, it's a positive thing that my arm was feeling good."

Reddick staked the Astros to a 2-0 lead in the third with his eighth home run. George Springer singled to open and Reddick drove a 1-0 pitch from Sam Gaviglio (3-2) over the wall in center.

"I didn't think it had enough to get out, honesty," Reddick said. "I was just trying to get George over to get Altuve a chance to drive him in. I got a fastball over the middle, didn't really try to pull it too much, tried to get to where I could drive it and fortunately it went out."

McCann's seventh-inning double increased the lead to 5-1.

Seattle, which had won six straight, scored one in the ninth off Ken Giles on a double and three consecutive walks, but Carlos Ruiz struck out looking with the bases loaded.

The Mariners pulled to 2-1 in the sixth. Ruiz doubled to open and took third on Jean Segura's single, chasing McCullers. Ruiz scored on Robinson Cano's single through the right side, but Will Harris got Nelson Cruz to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the seventh, Springer singled with one out and Reddick reached on catcher's interference. Carlos Correa's two-out single loaded the bases. McCann followed with a drive to right that Mitch Haniger briefly had in his glove on the diving attempt as he raced toward the line, but the ball popped free as he hit the ground.

"It just came out last minute - unfortunate," Haniger said. "I thought I had a shot. I knew it was going to be close, but I didn't know if I was going to have to dive or not. I was just unable to bring it in."

Gaviglio allowed two runs on six hits in six innings, but the Astros had runners in scoring position in each of the first five innings. He struck

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