Are Driverless Shuttles Our Future?

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.

Interestingly, some of the automakers and technology developers are also entering this space, including Mercedes Benz and Tesla; however, these seem more conceptual at this point.

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?

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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2 Responses to Are Driverless Shuttles Our Future?

  1. Blair Schlecter says:

    Very interesting. You might be interested to know that the City of Beverly Hills has an autonomous vehicle program based on the idea of publicly run autonomous shuttles. Part of the idea is to help get people to and from subway stops being constructed in town.


  2. Definitely, driverless everything is our future. We will just sit back and enjoy the ride.


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