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Cambridge-Based Company To Start Testing Self-Driving Cars On Boston Streets

BOSTON (CBS) -- After signing a memorandum of understanding with the City of Boston and MassDOT, a Cambridge-based company will begin testing their self-driving cars on public roads in the city.

That company, nuTonomy, will begin testing the cars in a small area of the seaport by the end of the year, with the goal of creating a fully-autonomous car service.

Mayor Marty Walsh told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker that he's looking forward to the testing.

"It's the beginning of looking at what the future of transportation really could be," Walsh said.

But nuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma said that having regular self-driving cars may take a while.

"Boston's a city with some challenging weather and some complex traffic paterns," said Iagnemma. "For that reason, it's going to be a little bit longer before we see autonomous vehicles operating as a service on our city streets."

NuTonomy has tested their cars on three continents, with their largest testing in Singapore. Right now, the company is plotting out areas around the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park in Boston's Seaport District to test the cars.

"We have to collect some data, we have to build some maps, that's a first step for just about any autonomous vehicle that wants to drive on public roads," said Iagnemma.

In a release, the city said that nuTonomy's software system will learn local road signs and try to understand pedestrian, cyclist, and driver behavior. For those tests, an engineer will be in the vehicle to observe performance and take over if needed.

The city is in conversations with other autonomous vehicle companies about additional on-street pilot programs. The mayor's office said in a release that autonomous cars could reduce motor vehicle fatalities and decrease cities' transportation-related carbon footprint.

In September, the city announced a one-year partnership with the World Economic Forum to test self-driving cars in Boston.

Autonomous cars are a big part of the Go Boston 2030 initiative to re-imagine the city's transportation future.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker reports

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