The promise of driverless vehicles is one step closer to becoming a reality with an RTD demonstration at the Pepsi Center parking lot this Wednesday. The 12-passenger vehicle comes to Denver in partnership with Transdev, a Chicago based transit operation company that owns Yellow Cab.
Transdev has been a partner with RTD since 2005 and operates 125 of the agency’s fixed-route buses. The pair has decided to test a potential autonomous shuttle as a way of exploring the option in Denver. However, that does not mean you’ll spot these driverless vehicles on the open road anytime soon.
“While we don’t have plans now to purchase these vehicles, it’s always useful to examine new ways of getting around and consider how agencies can work together to meet the mobility needs of our growing region,” explained RTD CEO and general manager Dave Genova.
The demonstration will take place at the Prius North parking lot at the Pepsi Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 16. The vehicle, designed by French company EasyMile, will max out at 12 miles per hour so don’t expect joy ride thrills. However, the pod shaped vehicle will likely be different from any other driving experience you may have had. There will be no steering wheel, no dedicated front or back and no operator. Rather the hybrid sensors, object detection and an additional standalone collision-avoidance features will guide the shuttle around the lot. Fleet management software will allow for remote and real-time monitoring and control.
RTD and Transdev are not the first to test driverless cars in Colorado. In fact, several companies like GM and Uber have shown interest in bringing autonomous vehicles to Denver since Governor John Hickenlooper signed legislation in June that allows the testing of autonomous vehicles in Colorado.
But while they are not the first to do a test, inviting the public to test autonomous vehicles is still a relatively new idea.
“I’m optimistic that once the public has a chance to experience this new technology firsthand, they will realize how it can be used as a viable transit solution to supplement traditional bus services in the foreseeable future,” said Dick Alexander, executive vice president of Transdev North America. “One thing is certain: They will never forget the first time they rode on a driverless vehicle.”
Transdev is also hoping to launch these shuttles to operate on the open road in Normday and the Parisian suburbs of France. But the exact timeline is still yet to be determined.