Gainesville will look a little more futuristic in 2018.
Come April, Gainesville will introduce a self-driving shuttle service that will run 10 hours a day Monday through Friday from Depot Park, located at 200 SE Depot Ave., to UF’s campus, said city spokesperson .
“What this will allow Gainesville to be is the first municipality in the state of Florida to have an autonomous shuttle,” he said.
The shuttle, which is shaped like a cube, will hold 12 passengers – six seated and six standing – and travel at approximately 11 mph. It is wheelchair accessible but will not transport bicycles as they could potentially interfere with the shuttle’s sensors, Skinner said. The project is being funded entirely by the Florida Department of Transportation for the three-year trial run. Riders will not be charged for the service, although the city may choose to instate a fee toward the end of the trial run.
The anticipated route would begin at Depot Park, move up Southeast Third Street to Southeast Second Avenue, cross 13th Street to get to Little Hall on campus and then turn around, Skinner said.
The city proposed a bid for an autonomous shuttle in August, according to Alligator archives. Transdev Services was the only vendor that responded to the city’s request for proposals. Transdev Services currently serves more than 200 cities in more than 19 countries and operates autonomous shuttles in places like the Netherlands and France, Skinner said.
The city has looked at other cities with self-driving shuttles to prepare, particularly Las Vegas. Its first autonomous shuttle was in an accident the first day it hit the streets, according to CNN.
For the beginning of the trial run, an operator will ride in the shuttle, although Skinner is confident the autonomous shuttle will be perfectly safe for riders and pedestrians.
“With all those sensors we are well-assured by the manufacturer of the shuttle that the sensors will be able to pick up all those individuals,” he said.
For now, the autonomous shuttle doesn’t pose a threat to jobs but depending on the success of the trial run, it could in the future, Skinner said.
“It’s not going to cause anyone to lose their job at this point in time,” he said, “but as things continue to move forward and the technology is advanced, then yes of course it could be a threat to human-operated taxis, bus service and things of that nature.”
When Hope Poulsen, a UF accounting graduate student, first read about the shuttle, she thought it was a joke. Once she discovered that it was actually becoming a reality, the idea started to grow on her.
“I think it’s a really cool idea,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s pretty obvious that the whole point is just to like test out autonomous vehicles.”
Contact Jessica Giles at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jessica_giles_