County pushing to bring Google cars to Fayette

County pushing to bring Google cars to Fayette

The push to make Fayette County a hub for testing Google’s driverless vehicles was widely reported this week, as various Atlanta media outlets spoke to County Commission Chairman Steve Brown about the idea.

The County Commission passed a resolution in July that essentially served as an open invitation to Google to bring their technology here.

Brown said this week that he is trying to work with state agencies like the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Governor’s office to ensure that, if the opportunity presents itself, Fayette County will be ready to capitalize.

“There are other places across the nation” which are also vying to be a testing ground for the technology, Brown said Wednesday, and “that’s why we’re running as fast as we can” to get to the front of the pack.

When the resolution came up in July, it was cast as the type of opportunity Fayette County missed out on with the tech boom that accompanied the rise of the internet. Since that resolution passed, Fayetteville passed a similar resolution while the Peachtree City Council declined to be involved, citing primarily safety concerns with the city’s high volume of pedestrian and golf cart traffic.

Brown said that Fayette County is uniquely positioned as a favorable testing site for several reasons, particularly as compared to California, where Google is headquartered.

“The unique thing we have that California doesn’t have is their regulations say that you must have a steering wheel, brake, and gas pedals,” Brown said. “Google doesn’t want to put that in the [test] vehicle.”

Brown said that his understanding was Google had planned to build 200 test vehicles that go “only 25 miles per hour,” are smaller than a Volkswagen Bug, and have a foam composite body core. All those factors, he said, would limit the potential danger involved.

He added that regulators were likely getting ahead of themselves in putting limitations on driverless cars before they could be tested.

“They’re regulating something and they have no idea what they’re regulating,” Brown said. “That’s why they really want to do the testing and then work on the regulations.”

He argued that Fayette has some other clear advantages.

“We’ve got some really good things going for us. We have the least congested traffic for a county in the major metro market,” Brown said. “We’re right next to the airport, which is a positive, and we’ll let them do [the testing] exactly the way they want to do it.”

He also cited the proximity to Georgia Tech, which has expressed an interest in being involved with the project.

WSB spoke directly to a Georgia Tech representative about the study they’ve already done on autonomous vehicles and their implications for society.

“Our research is involved in trust, not just how humans trust the self-driving cars, but also how the self-driving cars can and should trust humans,” Don Davis, chief for Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Georgia Tech, told Channel 2 Action News.

Brown said he has not yet spoken directly to the Governor’s Office, but hopes to soon, primarily to ensure that if Google should show an interest in Fayette County that the state would not step in and offer any obstacles.

“If we open the invitation and get them to come [here], I just don’t want the state challenging,” Brown said.

There have been no in-depth conversations between Google and Fayette County, but Brown said “we’ve corresponded with them to tell them what we’re doing.”

Josh Akeman

Josh Akeman is the managing editor of the Fayette County News, Today in Peachtree City, and East Coweta Journal. He is a graduate of Fayette County High School and the University of Georgia.