Here’s an interesting little item from Mass Transit Magazine:
Proterra has announced the company is initiating the industry’s first autonomous bus program with the University of Nevada, Reno and its Living Lab Coalition partners that includes the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, the Nevada Governor’s Office for Economic Development, Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI, and the cities of Reno, Sparks and Carson City, Nevada.
This pilot project is intended to investigate ways to make sure automated mass transit is safe. Mass transit presents a unique set of challenges for automated vehicles – namely, the need to travel in and through dense urban centers, and the need for frequent starts and stops to safely load and unload passengers.
It will be interesting to see what the project finds. So far, most of the autonomous vehicle talk we’ve seen has to do with personal, single-occupant vehicles. While there is lots to be gained in the realm of safety with this technology, there is some concern that self-driving cars could have either no effect or a negative effect on actual traffic congestion and vehicle-miles-traveled.
Autonomous buses, on the other hand, could be the best of both worlds – improving road safety and traffic flow by removing human error from the equation, but also providing robust HOV travel with the additional benefit of being able to run more buses, longer, without the additional expense of more drivers.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, of course, but I’m glad to see the technology being explored.