Self-driving cars headed to Manhattan streets

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NEW YORK — Self-driving cars will be cruising down New York City streets in the beginning of 2018.

The mix of pedestrians, taxis, buses and cars on New York City streets actually make it a perfect testing ground for self-driving technology, Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt said. His company, along with General Motors will bring autonomous cars to New York in early 2018 with a special permit from the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

"Testing in New York will accelerate the timeline to deploying self-driving cars at scale," Vogt said. "New York City is one of the most densely populated places in the world and provides new opportunities to expose our software to unusual situations, which means we can improve our software at a much faster rate."

Self-driving cars were banned in New York until passage of a new law. Drivers are required to keep one hand on the wheel at all times. All cars tested will have an engineer in the driver's seat.

The driver-less cars will be tested on a 5-square-mile section of Lower Manhattan. They have already been tested in Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Car companies and tech partners have to submit an application to the state of New York that includes time, date and a proposed route. $5 million in insurance is also a requirement.

The New York City Department of Transportation has expressed some concerns. A representative from New York Governor Cuomo's office says the permitting process will address them.

Cadillac, which has its world headquarters in Lower Manhattan offers "super cruise" on some 2018 models. The General Motors' technology uses sensors, a camera on the steering wheels, and data maps to create hands-free driving on the highway. A media release from the Governor's office says those cars have been driven on New York City roads.

The participants are required to submit a report to the state.