A driverless bus, are you ready?

Nov. 3, 2017
by Mark Ollig

Are you ready to hop aboard and take a ride in a battery-powered shuttle bus with no human driver, or even a steering wheel?

Don’t be nervous. A certified human shuttle operator will be aboard providing customer service for the passengers, as well as the human intervention of the autonomous bus ride if it’s needed.

This driverless, fare-free, 12-passenger shuttle travels at comfortable cruising speeds averaging 10 to 12 miles per hour, with a top speed of 20 miles per hour.

The city council of Arlington, TX is currently operating two self-driving electric vehicles under a lease agreement with EasyMile headquartered in Toulouse France, with offices in Denver, CO.

Arlington’s self-driving shuttle service is called Milo, meaning “mile zero” or the point at which shuttle passengers arrive or depart from an event’s location.

“Arlington is the first local government in the US to offer ongoing autonomous vehicle service to the general public,” said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams.

These self-driving vehicles are shuttling people back-and-forth over non-public vehicular transportation roadways and trails within the city’s Entertainment District, where many events take place.

Arlington is exploring the use of autonomous transportation software and hardware technology, and is conducting a one-year pilot program which began in August.

Part of the purpose of the Milo pilot program is to familiarize the public with driverless vehicle technology, according to Bill Verkest, Arlington Transportation Advisory Committee Chair.

One of the routes Milo travels is the paved trail system connecting to AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys professional football team plays.

Information about Milo posted on the City of Arlington’s website includes the following:

• Milo shuttles are free to use, wheelchair accessible, and can hold up to 12 passengers, (or 10 passengers plus one wheelchair).

• Shuttle rides are available along select Entertainment District off-street trails during stadium and ballpark events.

• Although Milo runs autonomously, a certified operator will always be onboard.

• Milo has a maximum speed of about 20 miles per hour and can accelerate, brake, and steer by itself.

• Milo’s driverless technology comes with collision avoidance systems that detect other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and obstacles.

• Milo will operate by following a pre-programmed route on trails, not city streets.

• Milo includes air-conditioning and an automatically-deploying ramp for people using a wheelchair or those pushing a stroller.

“The experts are saying every day there is something new being invented in transportation. It’s a great opportunity for us to do these pilot projects, for us to actually test them in our community and for our citizens to be able to look at them and see if they work here and what their opinion of it is,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said about Milo during his 2017 State of the City address Oct. 18.

“We want to see how this technology performs, where it is best utilized and how it can be harnessed to potentially serve the city’s transportation needs in the future,” he added.

I encourage you to watch the City of Arlington’s video, “Arlington Unveils Milo Autonomous Shuttle Service,” at http://bit.ly/2uOqfwV.

Another video of Milo in action can be seen at http://www.arlington-tx.gov/visitors/milo.

EasyMile was founded in 2014, and specializes in providing software powering autonomous vehicles and end-user smart mobility solutions. Its website is http://easymile.com.

Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes, and visit my blog page at https://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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