Learn about automated driving systems in Massachusetts

Executive Order (EO) 572 (To Promote the Testing and Deployment of Highly Automated Driving Technologies) was signed by Governor Charles Baker on October 20, 2016.

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Executive Order 572 was signed along with a similar order from Mayor Martin Walsh and the City of Boston. Both EOs state the Commonwealth’s support for innovating driver-assistive technologies. The EO states that automated driving systems (i.e. autonomous vehicles) have the potential to transform personal mobility and road safety.

EO 572 established an Autonomous Vehicles Working Group. The group's report covered the safe introduction of automated driving systems (ADS) onto Commonwealth roadways, and provided input on potential policies, regulations, and legislation for consideration.

The Executive Order also defined a process for MassDOT to allow the testing of ADS-equipped vehicles (SAE levels 3-5) on public roads. Two companies, Optimus Ride and Aptiv, are currently permitted to test ADS-equipped vehicles on public roads in Massachusetts with a driver in the vehicle.

EO 572 Working Group

The AV Working Group established by Executive Order 572 included members of:

  • MassDOT (including the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Highway Division)
  • the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
  • the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
  • the Legislature and designees thereof

The Working Group convened 10 meetings between October 2016 and September 2018 and submitted a final report which covers:

  • automated vehicle technologies and governance
  • the industry in the Commonwealth
  • recommendations for advancing the state of the ADS industry in the Commonwealth
  • initiatives in others states and nations
  • materials from the Working Group meetings

Testing in the Commonwealth

EO 572 defined a process for MassDOT to permit the testing of ADS-equipped vehicles (SAE levels 3-5) on public roads. Among other requirements, the process includes:

  • a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with MassDOT and any affected municipality or state agency
  • an application to MassDOT including documentation of testing experience, testing and safety plans, insurance coverage, vehicle registration, and operator licensure
  • a Testing Plan 
  • and a licensed driver in the vehicle with the ability to take immediate control as necessary

The initial version of the Application and MOA were provided in November 2016. During 2018, revised application materials were developed in partnership with MAPC, participating municipalities, and DCR in an attempt to establish an efficient process for facilitating testing across participating jurisdictions. An updated Application to Test Automated Driving Systems in the Commonwealth was published in September 2019.

Two companies, Aptiv (formerly nuTonomy) and Optimus Ride, are currently permitted by MassDOT and the City of Boston to test ADS-equipped vehicles. They are using them within the City on designated roadways and in defined environmental conditions, per their respective testing plans. The companies have each safely tested for over 2 years in the Commonwealth, using several vehicles and dozens of well-trained and licensed human backup drivers.

Aptiv currently has approval from MassDOT and the City of Boston to conduct testing on any Boston- or MassDOT-owned state roadway within the City's jurisdiction. The testing is on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less, in daytime and nighttime hours and in weather including light rain and fog. In June 2018, Aptiv began expanding testing activities outside of the Seaport starting with high-definition mapping, and has begun testing in some areas of South Boston.

Optimus Ride has approval from MassDOT, the City of Boston, and Massport to operate in parts of the Seaport and Marine Industrial Park, in daylight and nighttime hours and weather including light rain.

Optimus Ride also received approval in October 2018 from MassDOT and the jurisdictions within Union Point to conduct testing and a passenger carriage pilot within the Union Point development. The company is conducting phased testing in Union Point, and is currently carrying (non-paying) passengers in daylight and good weather or light rain conditions. The passengers are residents and employees at the Union Point development. The service connects to the South Weymouth Commuter Rail station adjacent to the site. Optimus Ride is also permitted to test in Union Point without passengers in daylight and night hours, and in moderate rain conditions.



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