Advancing the Industry One Project at a Time: Shared Autonomous Vehicles Deployed as a Fleet!

I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted, but I had to share a project that I’m personally so proud to have conceptualized and now implemented – in partnership with so many awesome people and organizations. 

As described in this article, we just launched the Nation’s largest self-driving electric shuttle network! This was just a glimmer of an idea two years ago – when my friend, Tyler Svitak (Executive Director of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance) and I sat in a coffee shop and talked about what the industry needed to advance automation. At that point in time, low-speed automated shuttles were being deployed in real-world environments (so less parking lot demos!), but they were still 1 or 2 shuttles at a time for less than a year and oftentimes in a low ridership location. We both knew that the potential for these shuttles was so much greater, so we crafted our vision where these shuttles could truly solve a mobility problem by deploying them at scale (>5 shuttles in one location) and for long enough to make a difference (>1 year). 

Moreover, since working at EasyMile, I see how public agencies are deploying these smaller-scale low-speed automated shuttle pilots with the intention of answering many of the same questions: How do we prepare our infrastructure? Will people be willing to ride in these vehicles? Who is responsible if there’s an accident? How does this impact transit services? And the list goes on… Could we create a project that could capture these learnings in a way that could be meaningfully shared with the industry so that they can feel ready as automation becomes truly viable in the coming years? Our response: Yes we could… CityForward, developed by Stantec, is coming soon!

Who would be able to pay for such an ambitious project?! This obviously required some creative thinking since we knew that one transit agency, city or DOT couldn’t afford to cover the costs of the shuttles, project management, operations, etc for that duration of time.

Introducing AvCo (Autonomous Vehicles Colorado)…. The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance brought together many public and private organizations to launch the nation’s first highly automated, connected, electric and shared public transit service. Our first site is in Golden, Colorado with nine shuttles deployed in and around the Colorado School of Mines for at least a year. This project has countless stakeholders and funding is coming from a wide variety of sources, but we are still looking for more… 

On that note, if you or someone you know has interested in any of the following – please feel free to shoot me an email ([email protected]): 

  • Sponsorship (e.g., wrapping the shuttles, naming the routes/bus stops, etc.)
  • Living Lab – showcasing your technology on/in the shuttles or related infrastructure
  • Data sharing – accessing an unprecedented level of data

Otherwise, let me know if you see other cool ways that projects are helping to advance the industry because that’s what it’s all about!

About Lauren Isaac

Lauren Isaac is the Director of Business Initiatives for the North American operation of EasyMile. Easymile provides electric, driverless shuttles that are designed to cover short distances in multi-use environments. Prior to working at EasyMile, Lauren worked at WSP where she was involved in various projects involving advanced technologies that can improve mobility in cities. Lauren wrote a guide titled “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” regarding how local and regional governments should respond to autonomous vehicles in the short, medium, and long term. In addition, Lauren maintains the blog, “Driving Towards Driverless”, and has presented on this topic at more than 75 industry conferences. She recently did a TEDx Talk, and has been published in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune among other publications.

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