Mayor pushes for Avondale to test driver-less cars

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt September 22, 2014
Google driverless car operating on a testing path. Photo by  Steve Jurvetson, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

Google driverless car operating on a testing path. Photo by Steve Jurvetson, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

Avondale Estates Mayor Ed Rieker wants the city to become a test site for driver-less cars.

There’s a resolution on the agenda for the Sept. 22 City Commission meeting, “To establish an ordinance to allow and regulate autonomous vehicle technology in the city of Avondale Estates.”

Commissioners gave the idea thumbs up at their most recent work session.

The ordinance authorizes the mayor and board of commissioners, “To pursue research and development of an ordinance allowing the approval of Autonomous Vehicle Technology and to work with State Officials to authorize Avondale Estates as a pilot site for the research, development and manned testing of Autonomous Vehicle Technology, and in doing so, encourage the related technology interests to settle in the city.”

Rieker said the cars will be the next big thing that could also be an economic boon for the city. It’s also an idea that’s catching the attention of other elected officials around the state. Creative Loafing reports the recently formed state House Study Committee on Autonomous Vehicles met on Sept. 17. The CL story says Georgia Tech and Georgia State are both conducting research into the driver-less car technology.

Rieker also is currently a mentor in Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint program, which “creates better startups, faster.”

During the discussion about the ordinance during the Sept. 17 work session, Rieker said, “I’ve got some connections down at Georgia Tech at the robotics lab down there.”

Henrik Christensen chairs the Robotics Department at Georgia Tech and said the department regularly collaborates with Flashpoint, but he does not know Rieker.

Christensen said another community in Georgia, Fayette County, is also seeking to become a test site for the new driver-less cars.

“My impression is they are trying to adopt this so that if businesses want to set up experiments, they want to be a community for this,” he said. ” … If you make a bet on driver-less cars, (it’s) probably going to be a big deal in the future. Let’s figure out how we attract some of the companies to be in our neighborhood.”

Christensen there are many technical challenges to work through before driver-less cars become a reality in Georgia, however.

“One of the things we’re looking at is how we can make sure people don’t get distracted by all the technology,” he said. “How much technology can put in the cars before it becomes a major distraction?”

As the Creative Loafing article points out, there are also many unanswered legal questions about who is liable if something goes wrong with these vehicles.

Rieker told commissioners that he envisions a future where driver-less cars are a new source of on-demand travel “so you don’t have to get in your car to drive to Pallookaville or the Pizza Cafe.”

To read the resolution commissioners will consider, click here.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Patsy Neal

    Goodness! There’s a lot of news coming out of Avondale these days. It makes economic sense to invite a technology company and spin-off startups to choose Avondale as their location; it would be great for DeKalb Co. in general. But the ordinance isn’t well thought out. Does the mayor intend for the driverless test cars to be placed on city streets, where families stroll, cyclists pedal, golf carts hum, and more? Or does the mayor suggest privately owned parcels as a test site? Automotive research is already showing driverless cars are too far off from operating, and may never occur, in urban areas. Avondale is about 2 sq. miles in area with almost 3,000 people per sq. mile. Whereas Fayette County, as mentioned in the article, is almost 200 sq. miles and just under 600 people per sq. mile. There’s a lot more land area in Fayette County for driverless cars to roam free and less likely a chance of taking out a pedestrian.

  • Decaturite

    Driverless cars make me think of headless horsemen. Kind of scary.

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