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De Blasio puts the brakes on plans for self-driving cars in NYC

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio just hit the brakes on the plans for self-driving cars to come to Manhattan streets.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave driverless cars the green light to test on New York City Streets Tuesday.  City transportation department officials were not given any notice on the timing, details or testing area of a pilot until the night beforehand, an NYC DOT spokesperson said. The level of outreach “does not even qualify as consulting” the agency responsible for overseeing city streets.

“I think we’re talking about an entirely new technology that, if applied in the biggest city in America with the busiest streets that already have safety problems we’re addressing – it makes no sense to start here,” de Blasio said. “If the State of New York wants to test these vehicles, choose parts of the State that are appropriate.”

De Blasio’s objections may not matter though. Department of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Tiffany Portzer said it’s a matter for the state to decide — and the state is letting General Motors test in a 5-square-mile section of Lower Manhattan beginning in 2018.

“The mayor can do whatever he wants but the city is subject to state jurisdiction — it’s government 101,” Portzer said. “If the mayor bothered to learn the facts on GM’s testing, he would know that there will be a licensed driver behind the wheel who is also a qualified engineer and a passenger to monitor the vehicle during every demonstration. In fact, New York State’s requirements are stricter than any other state’s in the nation. We understand that the mayor’s taxi industry donors don’t like it, but it is the future and all states are exploring it.”

De Blasio, who’s made the Vision Zero initiative a cornerstone of his administration, said Thursday driverless cars should be kept off city streets until more guarantees are made about safety.

“We trust the DMV when it comes to renewing licenses,” a de Blasio spokesperson said. “We trust the NYPD when it comes to keeping our streets safe.”