Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca says that she expects the testing of driverless cars in Boston to begin by the end of this year—not this fiscal year, which ends next June, but this calendar year. 

As of press time, it's late October. 

It's a short timeline, and an even shorter one given that the city announced just today the creation of an oversight group, lead by the transportation commissioner, to develop policy recommendations for the testing, regulation, and gradual implementation of autonomous vehicles in Boston. 

The announcement came the same day that Governor Charlie Baker signed his own executive order, creating a state framework for testing and regulating automated vehicles. Baker's order created a working group which will, in turn, help draft mandatory policies for autonomous vehicles to comply with the state's Registry for Motor Vehicles.   

Currently, driverless vehicles are banned from Massachusetts roadways.

But Fiandaca says that she expects testing to begin, off public roadways, before the end of the year. 

That is, she acknowledges, soon. But, Fiandaca told WGBH News, "Manufacturers would probably say they're ready to go, or they will be ready to go in the next several years." 

"We really want to use this opportunity to make sure that we get out in the forefront of developing policy recommendations that ensure an appropriate level of testing is done," she said.

Both Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh have characterized their efforts as both cautionary, getting ahead of potentially major change, and forward-looking: Both hope to showcase Massachusetts as being at the forefront of the emerging technology.   

The city's role, Fiandaca says, will be in both developing recommendations to share with state agencies and the governor's working group; and to oversee testing itself, using a "graduated" process—starting slow and developing tests and new policy recommendations based on preliminary results. 

"Autonomous vehicles have enormous opportunity in terms of promoting safety on our streets, increasing the safety of our roadway," Fiandaca said. "We support the development of this technology and policies that ensure that this particular innovation will benefit our residents."