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Google's self-driving cars pull up next to Uber in Arizona

Arizona is an obvious choice: It's the only state where the governor has issued an executive order to allow for the testing of autonomous vehicles.

The robot revolution may soon be calling Arizona home. More than a year after Uber formalized a partnership with the University of Arizona in Tuscon, Google announced it will begin testing its fully automated Lexus SUVs in Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix will be the fourth test site for the Alphabet-owned Google X project, leaving two more sites that the company applied to the FCC for yet to be announced. Other test sites include the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.; Austin, Texas and Kirkland, Wash.

States that have enacted autonomous testing laws — and as such have the potential to be the next home to Google’s self-driving project — include Nevada, Michigan, Washington D.C., Florida, North Dakota and Tennessee. However, Google has yet to test its vehicles in snowy climates like Michigan — where automakers like Ford, BMW and Nissan are testing their vehicles at the University of Michigan — making the state a promising candidate.

Arizona is an obvious choice for both Uber — which has headquartered its mapping operations at the University of Arizona — and Google because it’s the only state where the governor has issued an executive order that requires state agencies to allow for and facilitate the testing of autonomous vehicles.

However, similar to laws enacted in California, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order requires that the operator of the vehicle have a driver’s license and the ability to “direct the vehicle’s movement if assistance is required.”

Google’s fully autonomous prototype vehicle does not have a steering wheel — though the company does have manual controls that can be attached to the vehicle as needed — and will not be tested in Arizona. But, the company’s fleet of retrofitted Lexus vehicles has all the trimmings of manually driven cars and will enable drivers to take over as needed.

Ducey, the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, hopes to transform Arizona into a technology hub. To that end, he has established a council on the sharing economy to advance the state’s regulations on sharing economy companies and last year passed favorable ride-hail regulations that upended existing insurance mandates. Days after Ducey passed those regulations, Uber opened a Center of Excellence in Phoenix with the promise of creating 300 jobs — a move sources say the company has made in a number of markets where it faces regulatory woes.

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