Merced County officials say former Castle Air Force Base will turn into area for testing self-driving cars

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The autonomous car industry is on the fast track to revolutionizing the way people move and Merced county (KFSN)

The autonomous car industry is on the fast track to revolutionizing the way people move and Merced county officials are hoping this new technology will hit the road at the Castle Air Force Base.

"We're quickly becoming the epicenter for this industry because of our proximity to the silicon valley," said Mark Hendrickson.

Hendrickson says the county is in talks with auto companies to create a site where car companies can test autonomous cars using the rarely used roads at the old Air Force base--with its stop signals and speed limit signs the base could allow companies to put autonomous cars through the kinds of tests they cannot safely do in public.

Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving car project, is already testing its cars at the site, which supervisor Daron McDaniel says is attracting more attention.

"The real estate is a lot less expensive, the cost of living is expensive--it's an area where they can do light manufacturing and we have that available to them," said McDaniel.

County officials hope the test track puts them on track to create an 8.2 million square foot industrial development site, possibly generating more than 9,300 new jobs.

"One of our goals is to minimize risk to the task payer which is how we're looking to attract a private sector investors or investors to the table," said Hendrickson.

However, before that can happen, McDaniel says they will need to look at some infrastructure changes.

"If we get the Atwater-Merced Expressway to connect to Bellevue, all of a sudden we have a direct route to the 99 and it opens up Castle to commerce," said McDaniel.

The future of self-driving cars is still unknown but county officials say an agreement may be nearing the finish line.

Related Topics:
automotiveself driving carair forcemercedMercedCalifornia
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