As many already know, I strongly encourage vehicle and ride sharing (in general), but with the advent of driverless vehicles – I think vehicle and ride sharing will be vitally important for our society. For that reason, I have been remiss in not focusing on the driverless shuttles that are being developed and, in some cases, are already being tested on streets today. As shown in this table, some of the leading driverless shuttle companies include Local Motors, EasyMile, Navya, AuroRobotics, and Varden Labs. All of these vehicles currently operate at slow speeds (e.g., 25 mph) and are targeting closed campus environments and providing transit first/last mile solutions (with some exceptions, of course). They’re all also powered by electricity.
I was happy to see that three out of five of the driverless shuttle companies have offices in the United States. Sadly, most of the U.S. media focus has been on passenger vehicles and I think it’s important to shift our focus to shared vehicles.
Will these and other private companies replace our public transit services? That’s highly unlikely; however, they will likely start operating in transit agencies’ service areas (similar to what Chariot, Bridj, and other micro-transit companies are doing today). Transit agencies need to recognize that driverless shuttles present opportunities for the agencies and partnering early is a great start. Let’s create safer, more cost-effective transit systems that still support important government goals (geographic coverage, access for all demographics, etc). Do you agree?