Triplett describes a strong, long-standing relationship between the local government and Google, which has a campus in the suburb. They’ve worked together to develop parks and trails for residents, and Triplett described the comfort level as useful.
Triplett said he’d meet every six months or so with Google representatives and toss in a reminder of Kirkland’s interest in driverless cars.
“They’ve always kind of chuckled and say ‘hey if we ever get to that point we’ll talk to you about it, but we’re not at that point,’” Triplett said.
Google has 18 U.S. offices in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Austin — it’s other test site for self-driving cars outside its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters — is also home to a Google outpost.
The location alongside Lake Washington was also appealing for Google given that its laws are friendly to autonomous vehicles. The sides met recently, according to Triplett, as Google wanted to make sure the vehicles would be welcome. Triplett said that Kirkland examined its codes and state law and found nothing preventing autonomous vehicles. Neither Kirkland nor the state of Washington have any rules or requirements specifically written for autonomous vehicles.
Self-driving cars in Kirkland will be treated like ordinary vehicles, and pulled over and ticketed in the event of any violations. Google has pledged that while testing it will have a licensed driver in its vehicles.
“They care more than anybody about the safety of these vehicles,” Triplett said. “They’re very gently easing into this. They want to make sure the community feels that they’re safe.”
He said tests will begin in an area of Kirkland called Juanita, given the challenge its hills will provide. The location also brings more annual rainfall than Google’s headquarters, providing another circumstance for the self-driving cars to master.
So what can other locations intrigued by driverless cars learn from Kirkland? The presence of a Google office is an advantage, plus a community — and legal environment — that are welcoming to the cars. Kirkland even asked if its infrastructure would need to be tweaked to facilitate the cars, but Google said no.