FRISCO, Texas — Texans don't take kindly to sitting in the shadow of that other overachieving big state, even in the tech sector where California has a head start.
So the mayor of this Dallas suburb relished taking a call from executives at a Silicon Valley automated-driving startup, Drive.ai, who were shopping a cutting-edge pilot project last year.
"I said, 'You're a California-based company,' " Mayor Jeff Cheney recalled last week at the inauguration of Texas' first on-demand, self-driving taxi service. " 'Why are you calling me?' "
The answers he got eventually sealed the deal: Drive.ai was looking for not just the right driving environment to test its suburb-focused taxi service, but the right regulatory landscape and government support network.
They are emerging as key selling points for Texas, and the area around Dallas and Fort Worth, which were also selected last year as the first partner cities for Uber's flying taxi service, Uber Elevate. The region and the state are pushing to draw alternative-transportation companies to help solve traffic problems that come from their car-centric culture.
The linchpin was a state law passed last year that creates a legal framework for those companies to operate. One key provision: "An automated motor vehicle may operate in this state with the automated system engaged, regardless of whether a human operator is physically present in the vehicle."
Tom Bamonte, senior manager for automated vehicles at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said the law is getting the attention of automated-vehicle developers as Texas cities band together to attract pilot projects.