PORTLAND, Ore. -- Self-driving cars could hit Portland streets by the end of the year.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced an initiative Tuesday morning called the Smart Autonomous Vehicles Initiative (SAVI). They also signed a directive instructing the Portland Bureau of Transportation to create policies regarding the development of self-driving cars, as well as solicit proposals from companies to test the cars on the streets of Portland by the end of 2017.

“My goal is to have an autonomous vehicle pilot program in Portland, working for Portlanders, by the end of the year," Wheeler said. "By working with private industry, we can make sure that cutting edge technology expands access to public transit and reduces pollution and congestion.”

Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat said the initiative and directive will provide real data about the performance of self-driving cars and how Portland can use them to "increase affordable transportation, reduce congestion and fight pollution."

PBOT was instructed to push forward the new initiative with four successive steps within the next 60 days:

The directive tells PBOT to take four actions to advance SAVI within the next 60 days:

  • "Propose for City Council and public consideration Interim Transportation System Plan (TSP) policies that ensure connected and autonomous vehicles will serve Portland’s safety, equity, climate change, and economic goals;
  • "Publish a Request for Information (RFI) that invites AV testing specific to advancing safety, equity, climate, and economic goals;
  • "Adopt an Interim Administrative Rule that provides a clear path to permit innovators to apply to test, pilot or deploy AVs in Portland; and
  • "Develop public engagement, reporting, and evaluation plans that ensure Portland residents, workers, and businesses have opportunities to shape the “rules of the road” for AVs in Portland."

One of the reasons Portland is pushing the initiative is to improve safety on the roads.

“Autonomous vehicles can make our streets safer by taking human error out of the equation," Saltzman said. "As we work towards our Vision Zero goal of ending traffic fatalities and serious injuries, the public has a right to expect that the city will help make sure that safety standards are met. Autonomous vehicles should help us meet our safety, equity, climate change and economic goals.”