Thursday, November 9, 2017

Self-driving shuttle hits Las Vegas streets

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Las Vegas’ newest tourist attraction has nothing to do with casinos, neon lights or Cirque du Soleil. It’s a driverless shuttle that will make a half-mile loop all day long on city streets in the downtown Fremont East district, starting Wednesday.

AAA of Northern California, Nevada & Utah is sponsoring the yearlong pilot program along with two French companies: Keolis, a global transportation company that already runs Las Vegas’ public bus system, and Navya, which manufactures the driverless shuttle. The goal is twofold: to expose the public to the futuristic technology and gain insights on how people view it.
“Las Vegas prides itself on being first, getting out there and trying out new things,” said city spokesman Jace Radke.

Its sponsors say this is the first self-driving vehicle in the United States to offer rides to the public in live traffic, and the first to tie into city infrastructure such as traffic signals. The shuttle will receive wireless notification of whether lights are red, green or yellow, as well as other information to help traffic flow. Keolis and Navya already run similar shuttles in London, Paris and Lyon, France.

The bright-blue, all-electric, bubble-shaped vehicle, which travels at 10 to 15 mph, has no steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedals. It does have a video-game-like joystick controller, which an onboard attendant can use if there’s a need for human control — if a stoplight is out of service, for instance. But the attendant is primarily there to reassure passengers, analogous to the role elevator operators used to play.

“People were initially skeptical of this new technology to rapidly take them up flights of floors, so they had an attendant to ease concerns,” AAA spokesman John Moreno said. “But all the attendant did was flip a button and close the gate.”...