Testing automated driving systems in Massachusetts

MassDOT has developed this process to facilitate the testing of automated driving systems in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety

Table of Contents

Authorized testing on public roads

In September 2019, MassDOT released an updated version of the Application to Test Automated Driving Systems on Public Ways in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. An automated driving system is defined by SAE International as SAE Level 3 to SAE Level 5.

An application package consists of three documents, to be completed by any company or other entity which would like to operate an automated driving system (ADS) on public roads:

  • Application to Test
  • Testing Plan
  • Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)

For purposes of such testing on public roads in the Commonwealth per Executive Order No. 572, the MassDOT is designated the lead agency. Only approval issued by MassDOT will authorize testing of ADS-equipped vehicles on public ways. MassDOT will review and approve or deny any Application and any motor vehicle, driver or ADS testing proposal. MassDOT may also address any other issues, requests or controversies that arise in the course of testing or review. If MassDOT approves an Application, Testing Plan, and MOA, it will issue a letter of approval to test ADS-equipped vehicles.

Application to Test

The Application to Test contains nine detailed response sections to be completed by the prospective testing entity. The Application requires documentation of prior testing experience, a safety assessment, training and operations protocols, and a first responder interaction plan.

The Application also requires certain information for drivers, vehicles, and proof of insurance. The Application will be reviewed by all participants, and must be approved by MassDOT.

Additional Resources   for Application to Test

Testing Plan

The Testing Plan sets forth the roads which are available to prospective ADS testing entities. The Testing Plan has been defined by participating road owners in the Commonwealth (cities, towns, state agencies, and political subdivisions). Entities applying to test must indicate where, within the Testing Plan, such activities are anticipated to occur within the approval period (at most two years).

Additional Resources   for Testing Plan

Memorandum of Agreement

The MOA sets forth the definitions, application and approval process, and terms and conditions for testing. The MOA also outlines crash protocols, reporting requirements, terms of approval, and additional details for testing.

The MOA must be executed by the testing entity and MassDOT. If the Applicant intends to conduct testing on public ways under the control of participating state agencies, municipalities or other political subdivisions of the Commonwealth, those entities must also agree to the MOA.

Additional Resources   for Memorandum of Agreement

Timeline for Processing Applications

If an Application is deemed complete, MassDOT will review the three application documents in detail and provide approval, rejection, or request for more information within 30 business days.

If MassDOT requires more information, the Applicant should submit the information, or an explanation of the omission, within 15 business days. MassDOT will review and respond within 15 business days of receipt of the new information.

MassDOT reserves the right to withdraw an approval at any time, and to request a meeting with the Applicant before issuing an Approval to Test.

Participating Municipalities and Road Owners - MOU

In June 2018, MassDOT signed a Regional Memorandum of Understanding (also linked below) with fourteen municipalities and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to participate in the standard Application to Test ADS-Equipped Vehicles. Additional municipalities may sign on to participation agreement to facilitate testing through the standard Application at any time. The current participating road owners include:

  • Arlington
  • Boston
  • Braintree
  • Brookline
  • Cambridge
  • Chelsea
  • Medford
  • Melrose
  • Newton
  • Revere
  • Somerville
  • Weymouth
  • Winthrop
  • Worcester
  • Department of Conservation and Recreation
  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Additional Resources   for Participating Municipalities and Road Owners - MOU

Crash Response Form

A Crash Response Form must be submitted within 10 business days following the submission of a Crash Report, as described in the Memorandum of Agreement - Crash Protocol section. Information submitted in a Crash Response Form will be made publicly available on this website.

Additional Resources   for Crash Response Form

Image credits:  nuTonomy 2019

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