The city of Las Vegas is expanding its experiment with autonomous technology, offering members of the public free rides on a self-driving shuttle bus making stops in the city’s congested downtown. The shuttle will only make three stops on its 0.6-mile loop, but its operators are calling it “the largest self-driving pilot project in the US.”
The shuttle, which is designed by a French startup called Navya, can seat up to eight passengers, including a safety driver. So while the vehicle’s hardware and software will be handling all the driving operations, it won’t literally be a “driverless” experience.
The shuttle is outfitted with LIDAR, GPS, and cameras, in addition to V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) technology that will allow it to communicate with sensors embedded in Las Vegas’ traffic signals to better manage the flow of traffic. (The Verge’s Casey Newton recently got the chance to test out an Audi equipped with V2I technology in Las Vegas, and he found the experience to be much less stressful than usual.)
Starting November 8th, the shuttle will begin accepting passengers at any of the limited route’s three stops located on Fremont Street and Carson Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and 8th Street. The service is operated by Keolis, the largest private transport company in France, and will also be sponsored by AAA, which plans to use the year-long project to survey rider attitudes toward autonomous vehicles.
The shuttle project is an expansion of a two-week experiment conducted by Navya and Keolis in Las Vegas last January. At the time, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she hoped to have a fleet of autonomous vehicles operating in the city by the end of 2017.
And while three stops on a route that doesn’t even crack a mile may not sound that exciting on paper, it certainly represents the best-case scenario in terms of how autonomous vehicles make their way onto public roads as quickly as possible. Las Vegas isn’t the only city experimenting with self-driving shuttles. Others include Anne Arbor, Michigan, which recently deployed its own Navya-built autonomous vans on the University of Michigan campus. Apple is also considering using self-driving vans to shuttle employees between its old headquarters and its new one.