Driverless Shuttles Have Arrived

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You can finally experience the future and board a driverless vehicle. Whether it’s you or your attendees boarding them, driverless vehicles represent a new era of transportation that is touted to make traveling greener, safer and easier.

The ‘public testing phase’ of autonomous vehicles, named Easy Mile EZ10 driverless shuttles, at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is now in operation, according to a press release on the AUS section of Austin’s government website. The shuttles transport passengers between Barbara Jordan Terminal and the rental car facility/ground transportation, where taxis and ride-app services pick up passengers. The shuttle is equipped with cameras and sensors to ensure the safety of passengers and is pre-programmed with its route from the terminal to the rental car facility.

The shuttle seats six passengers and has additional room for standing. An automated electric access ramp offers wheelchair accessibility. Although the shuttle itself operates without human help, an attendant will be present in the testing phase to assist travelers and ensure safe use of the shuttle.

Autonomous Shuttles Beyond Austin

The use of green energy to power the shuttle is an example of steps that AUS has taken to help reach City of Austin’s Strategic Direction 2023 Health & Environment outcome. The nature of airport shuttles is that they travel the same route every day in an environment that is mostly free of the uncertainties that are found where other vehicles are present (on roads and highways, for example). This makes them an easy and safe starting point for implementing driverless technology.

Similar strides have been made by French start-up company Navya in several cities across Europe and in key locations in America. Including the University of Michigan, where public perception of autonomous vehicles is being studied with a shuttle that carts passengers around MCity. This study looks at people’s feelings of safety and the level of trust they have in autonomous vehicles; so if they continue to flood the market, planners might want to consider attendees’ feelings towards driverless shuttles and cars before using them for events.

Further test schemes have been seen in downtown Las Vegas and Lake Nona, Florida as different companies and businesses continue to experiment with this emerging technology. Pittsburgh is also at the forefront of the trend, as 55 driverless cars are being tested in the city and its suburbs. As airports, hospitals and campuses are seen to be the perfect testing ground for the technology, don’t be surprised if autonomous vehicles pop up at your favorite hotel or airport (or, if Pittsburgh is any indication, on the streets of your neighborhood) in the coming years.