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Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commission Dan Saltzman direct PBOT to recruit companies to test self-driving cars in town.

COURTESY PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE - Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Portland's self-driving vehicle initiaitve at the Portland Business Alliance's April breakfast forum.Portland leaders embraced self-driving cars and trucks as an important part of the future transportation system on Monday.

At a morning press conference, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commission Dan Saltzman announced a Smart Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (SAVI) with the hope of having them tested on city streets in 2017.

"Portland's long history of transportation innovation is about to enter a new chapter," Wheeler said. "My goal is to have an autonomous vehicle pilot program in Portland, working for Portlanders, by the end of the year," Wheeler said before he and Saltzman signed a directive for the Portland Bureau of Transportation to develop autonomous vehicle policies and testing solicit proposals from companies developing them.

"Good rules allow business and government to work together, rather than at odds. Autonomous vehicles can make our streets safer by taking human error out of the equation," said Saltzman, who is in charge of PBOT.

The press conference was held following a panel discuss on the future of autonomous vehicle at the Portland Business Alliance's monthly breakfast forum. Wheeler announced the initiative at the beginning of the forum, and he and Saltzman signed the directive to PBOT afterwards. The policies would need to be approved by the City Council before any actual testing on Portland streets can occur.

The experts on the panel all agreed that autonomous vehicle technology is being rapidly developed, making it increasingly possible that driverless vehicles will be used for commutes, deliveries, shopping trips and other transportation purposes in the foreseeable future. They agreed that such vehicles could significantly reduce accidents, cut greehouse gas emissions, and free up time for travelers that could be put to other purposes.

The experts were Portland General Electric Business Development Director Charlie Allcock, PolySync CEO and co-founder Josh Hartung, and P3 North America managing partner Philip Potkowski. PGE has been a leader in promoting the use of electric vehicle's, PolySync is a Portland-based company developing an operating system for autonomous vehicles, and P3 is a technology consulting company that recently opened a Portland office.

"Evolving our transportation infrastructure is one of the great challenges, and the great opportunities, we face in the Portland region," said Allcock.

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