COLUMBUS, Ohio—Gov. John Kasich has opened all of Ohio's public roads to autonomous vehicle testing.
He signed an executive order May 9 permitting smart vehicle testing on public roads so long as the testing complies with established safety parameters and current state traffic laws. At a press conference, Kasich said further investment in autonomous vehicle technology in the state would increase employment opportunities and encourage development of new skill sets.
"We have to move forward and we have to invest in this technology," Kasich said. "I think that we're on the precipice of some very exciting things when it comes to this."
At the conference, Kasich also discussed recent tragedies associated with traditional traffic accidents and acknowledged accidents in which autonomous vehicles were involved.
"Computers do not comb their hair. Computers do not text. Computers do not talk on cellphones," Kasich said. "And this technology, which is going to be the 21st century technology, is going to save lives."
The announcement furthers Kasich's efforts announced in January to develop DriveOhio, the state's smart-mobility initiative aiming to drive an increase in autonomous technology development. DriveOhio will "allow for a more rapid deployment of interoperable smart mobility technologies," the statement said.
"You'll always have to take risks," Kasich said Wednesday while announcing the order. "If you don't take risks, you die."
Kasich, the last candidate to concede the Republican nomination for president in 2016, said he grew "more and more angry" when reading about how Pittsburgh had become a chosen testing ground for Uber several years ago, because Ohio wasn't keeping up. "I kept saying to my folks, 'What are we doing here?"' he said.
He didn't mention reports that Uber's relationship with residents and city officials deteriorated within a matter of months. Arizona ordered the ride-hailing giant to stop operating autonomous cars there indefinitely a week after the death of a pedestrian who was crossing the road at night in Tempe. Uber had already voluntarily halted testing companywide and hasn't resumed putting its self-driving cars on public roads.
Kasich, 65, said his mother and father were killed by drunk drivers, and that autonomous vehicles will prevent "senseless death" and "carnage" on highways. The governor said Ohio should rank among the top five states for development of the technology, along with California, Arizona, Florida and Michigan. The last state is, of course, a familiar rival for Buckeyes.
"We got the winning team," Kasich said. "You just got to put the ball in the end zone, and I think with this executive order, it's going to send a big message that we're ready to roll."