- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Self-driving cars will soon be taking a test drive along some of Virginia’s highways as part of an automated vehicle testing initiative.

The initiative was announced Monday in Pittsburgh at a meeting of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1JmPgCK ).

The research, being run by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, will be conducted along more than 70 miles of Northern Virginia Interstates, including 95, 495, 66, as well as on U.S. 29 and U.S. 50. The cars must have a driver at the wheel to take over in case of a malfunction.

The self-driving cars should be on the road within the year, although the vehicle manufacturers haven’t been lined up yet, according to Myra Blanco, the transportation institute’s director.

Test tracks at the institute’s Smart Road in Montgomery County and the Virginia International Raceway in Halifax County will be used to certify the technology as safe before the cars are allowed on the highway.

Virginia will join California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida and Washington, D.C. in allowing the vehicles to be tested on public roads.

Blanco believes Virginia will set itself apart from other states by making it easier for manufacturers to test their technologies.

“I think this is going to help us advance the technology and even more important, to attract companies and satellite offices in the Northern Virginia area to develop these new concepts,” Blanco said.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

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This story and accompanying headlines have been corrected to show that Google is not involved in the self-driving car tests announced by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

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