The Importance of Driverless Pilots

Now that I’ve been at EasyMile for over a month, I’ve recognized how important it is for cities and public transit agencies to develop driverless pilots. The time is now!  The technology is here, but so many other important milestones are still catching up.  Here are just a few of the reasons these pilots are so important:

  • Public acceptance: Call your aunt or uncle and ask if they would be willing to get into a driverless vehicle. Assuming they don’t live in Silicon Valley, a typical response is likely: “Those don’t actually exist” or “No thank you!” This technology has massive safety and mobility benefits and yet public adoption may be one of its biggest deterrents. Pilots present an opportunity for people to see and touch the vehicles….and really process how they could integrate it into their lives.
  • Educate stakeholders: I talk to clients everyday who are sold on the technology and its potential, but their Executive Team, Board, or their operations team still need to be convinced. Pilots present a short-term, affordable way to introduce the technology to decision-makers without any significant commitments (especially since no infrastructure changes are needed).
  • Establish partnerships: The driverless technology is introducing many new players into the mobility ecosystem, including insurance providers, universities, parts suppliers, and privacy/cyber-security experts. The sooner the technology is introduced, the sooner an agency can establish relationships with these new players.
  • Navigate regulations: The regulations are being developed right now! This is the perfect time to introduce the technology and actually influence the regulations at both the federal and state levels. These regulating bodies are receiving a lot of input from the technology developers, but they need to hear from the public agencies as well.
  • Integrate w/ transit: Most would agree that the long-term plan is to incorporate driverless vehicles into transit operations, but most transit agencies are struggling to figure out what that looks like and how that happens. By introducing the technology today, transit agencies can start to see how driverless vehicles can be integrated with their existing operations, fare structure, staffing, etc. And this will also help as agencies struggle to incorporate the driverless technology into their short- and long-range plans.

I can’t say enough good things about driverless pilots!  So cities and transit agencies – what are you waiting for?

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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