NYC's autonomous vehicle program: What you need to know

Get ready to see self-driving cars New Yorkers.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the Department of Transportation announced the requirements for safe autonomous vehicle (AV) testing in the city and that applications are now open for a new permit program.

DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez will oversee the program. Rodriguez shared the safety requirements and the opening of applications for the program.

What are the requirements of the program?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 18: Traffic is seen on 60th street at Columbus Circle in New York City on August 18, 2023. New York has received a plan by the Federal Highway Administration to charge up to $23 dollars for driving in midtown Manhattan for

The program includes a permit application process for applicants to share their previous testing background and technological proficiency, a detailed testing plan for the city, and a safety plan for their technology on city streets. See requirements below: 

  • A trained safety driver is required to sit behind the wheel and be ready to take control of an AV-enabled vehicle at all times.
  • Applicants must get approval from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles before starting an on-street testing program.
  • Applicants must provide details on how their test operators are selected and trained, and attest that they will follow recent best practices from the Society of Automotive Engineers.
  • Applicants are asked to work closely with DOT through regular meetings and data reporting and engage with the New York City Police Department and the Fire Department of the City of New York.
  • Applicants will additionally be required to provide a detailed overview of the level of automation and safety performance of their AV technology, including previous testing and crash histories of their AV technology.
  • Applicants must certify that the vehicles will follow all traffic laws and curb regulations.
  • Applicants need to provide a list of all current or past permits to test their technology in any local, state, or foreign government agency.

"As autonomous vehicle technology expands across the country, DOT is deploying a robust new permitting process to ensure safe, responsible testing on our city’s streets," Rodriguez said.

"Our streets are vibrant and energetic — and that’s a great thing, but it also means that we need to have strong guardrails and requirements in place on any sort of autonomous vehicles. That’s why we’re implementing these rigorous permit requirements and requiring close collaboration with DOT and our emergency responders, so we can ensure that autonomous vehicle technology works for New York City. This technology is coming whether we like it or not, so we’re going to make sure that we get it right. If we do, our streets can be safer, and our air could be cleaner," Adams said.

What is the goal of the program?

"Driver error and distraction plays an all-too-common role in traffic crashes, and autonomous vehicle technology offers potential to improve traffic safety. We look forward to working closely with AV companies that are serious about safely operating on America’s most challenging street network," Rodriguez said.

The goal of the program is to establish a framework for fostering collaborative efforts in autonomous vehicle (AV) testing and potential deployment within New York City. 

The DOT said they will regularly meet with the participants to talk about testing plans and more.