Transit ridership in the US has grown by more than 20% in the last decade, reaching its highest levels since 1957. First Transit, one of the nation’s largest private-sector providers of mobility solutions is now introducing their first autonomous vehicle (AV) passenger shuttle. First Transit, in partnership with EasyMile, the electric vehicle producer will pilot the AV passenger shuttle at the Bishop Ranch Office Park in San Ramon, California. The shuttle will connect tenants to multiple transit options including bus, bike and car-sharing services. It will run a fixed route stopping at designated stops within the office park. A pilot service will begin with two vehicles, each with a customer service agent on-board for passenger questions and information. The AV passenger shuttle is designed to travel short distances using pre-programmed routes. Each passenger shuttle is equipped with a sensor and intelligent vehicle system to detect obstacles and avoid collisions. They will be able to carry 12 passengers and operate for 14 hours on a battery charge. The pilot is scheduled to launch in December.
With 60 years of experience First Transit ( @FirstTransit ) is one of the largest private-sector providers of mobility solutions in North America, moving more than 350 million passengers annually. First Transit provides operation, management and consulting for more than 300 locations in 39 states, Canada, Puerto Rico, Panama and India for transit authorities, state departments of transportation, municipalities, hospitals, universities and private companies. “The AV passenger shuttle is also a great solution for first and last mile services, airport parking and university transportation,” said Sharad Agarwal, senior vice president, strategy and growth, First Transit. “We are proud to partner with EasyMile for the first AV passenger shuttle pilot in North America.”
With 2017 approaching, you might want to think about attending our popular SmartRail Europe event in Amsterdam and find out what urban innovations are currently being developed by industry experts.
Founded in 2014, EasyMile ( @Easy_Mile ) is a high-tech startup specialised in providing both software powering autonomous vehicles and the last mile smart mobility solutions. “We could not think of a better partner to work with for a pilot in North America,” said Gilbert Gagnaire, chief executive officer, EasyMile. “First Transit is leading the way in innovative transportation solutions across the globe.”
However, this is not the first AV development in the country. SmartRail News reported last month that a Downtown Autonomous Circulator will operate on the Marion Transitway. The vehicle will be electronically powered and travel 10km/h. The project is hoped to compliment other public services provided for the region and improve the transportation links for commuters in the first and last stretch of their journeys. Meanwhile, First Transit’s competitor Transdev, one of the largest public transport operators in Europe is also launching pilot tests for the vehicles in many large cities across the continent. Transdev’s North America CEO Mark Joseph said: “Driverless vehicles can plug multiple gaps that exist in current transport networks. They also create a new low-cost solution that opens mobility options that may never have been considered before.”
So how will AV transport improve America’s urban mobility?
AV transport could combine the benefits of light rail and Bus Rapid Transit to provide a safe, convenient way to travel. Improved safety is another potential benefit of autonomous rapid transit. According to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database, there were 3,250 collisions, almost 13,000 injuries, and 92 fatalities involving buses in 2011. From a cost perspective, capital expenditures would be minor compared to new light rail construction, and the technology could easily be added to existing bus rapid transit systems instead of purchasing new buses. Additionally, it will help ease congestion in the cities and be more environmentally friendly as the battery powered vehicles are 100% electric. It is hoped that this transport evolution could set a new standard for public transportation and encourage more people to stop using their cars and mobilise themselves in a smarter city.
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