Driverless vehicles soon to be tested in Central PA

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Imagine being stopped at a red light, turning your head to the car pulling up next to you, and seeing an empty drivers seat.

“I think I’d freak out,” said Keri Miller, a Lancaster County resident.

“I’d be a little bit stunned, wondering what was going on,” said Karen Landis, also from Lancaster County.

But it may soon become the new normal, after PennDOT approved Lancaster County to be a testing location for automated vehicles, better known as driverless cars.

"I think a lot of people think this is on the horizon for the future, and there could be benefits for the future. I understand that. I think our focus is on just making sure Lancaster County roads are safe,” said Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons.

Parsons says he received a letter Tuesday from the Secretary of Transportation saying Carnegie Mellon University was given the green light to test automated vehicles in several Pennsylvania counties.

He says he hasn’t had the chance to speak with PennDOT about the decision, but he does have some concerns about the new technology in Lancaster County.

“We have some unique issues here in Lancaster County, specifically Amish buggies, that we want to make sure we’re safe about,” said Parsons.

PennDOT declined to speak on camera about these vehicles.

The letter, though, does say that vehicle testing will be done with a driver behind the wheel.

But members of the public we spoke with have mixed feelings about whether or not the county is ready for it.

“I guess if we’re at the point where we’re testing them on public roads, they must semi work. But it’s still very nerve-wracking,” said Miller.

“Hey, technology has got to advance at some point,” said Landis.

“My boss was joking yesterday. He said, ‘I can’t wait until I can lay down in the back seat and just drive to Pittsburgh.’ And that’s not quite the way I visualize driving any time soon,” said Peter Whitmer from Lancaster County.

Automated vehicle testing was already approved in a few counties in eastern and western Pennsylvania.

Here in Central Pennsylvania, in addition to Lancaster County, we may also soon see it in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, and York counties.

PennDOT did confirm to Fox 43 that there is no testing going on at the moment, but did not say when it will start.

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