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 Motional, 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, Motional 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 3 years in the Commonwealth, using several vehicles and dozens of well-trained and licensed human backup drivers.

Motional 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 rain, fog and snow. 

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 rain, fog and snow.