New York is accepting applications from companies interested in testing autonomous vehicles

Testing of self-driving vehicles in New York state is set to begin, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

The governor says the state is now accepting applications for companies that are interested in testing autonomous vehicles on public roads.

A measure to allow the testing and demonstration of self-driving vehicles was included in last month's budget. Testing must be approved by the state and done under the guidance of state police officials. Companies will also have to have a licensed driver in the vehicle and a $5 million insurance policy.

Advocates for the technology say it will make driving safer in the long run, but unions for truckers and taxi drivers believe it will ultimately result in a loss of jobs for drivers. One union even called on the state to ban the tech on public roads for 50 years.

Ride-sharing companies, like Uber, have been testing the tech in other states, but briefly suspended testing after a crash involving a self-driving vehicle in Arizona earlier this year.

The testing period in New York will last less than a year, concluding next April. Before that date, companies will be asked to submit safety reports to the Department of Motor Vehicles and state police leaders who will in turn submit a report on the safety of the technology.

"New York has emerged as one of the nation's leading hubs for innovation, and as we invite companies and entrepreneurs to reimagine transportation technology, we will encourage the development of new, safe travel options for New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "With this action, we are taking a careful yet balanced approach to incorporating autonomous vehicles on our roads to reduce dangerous driving habits, decrease the number of accidents and save lives on New York roadways."

DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan noted the importance of the testing in a statement: "While we all are familiar with the idea that self-driving cars will one day likely be commonplace, the reality is that there is a long road ahead before we get there. We need to make sure these vehicles are safely tested on our roads, while providing opportunities for the public to become familiar with this technology. This is a balanced approach consistent with New York’s long track record of highway safety as well as innovation."

New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II stated, "The State Police applaud any new and advanced technology that will improve safety on our roadways and reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities. Any new technology, no matter how innovative, needs to be tested and evaluated appropriately and the State Police will perform its due diligence to oversee this process and ensure its effectiveness."