City of Colorado Says Great Autonomous Shuttle Pilot ‘Super Valuable’

Written by Ryan Johnston

Almost three months after a suburb of Denver launched one of the largest deployments of autonomous vehicles in the United States, passengers report that the autonomous shuttles have been “super valuable,” said Tyler Svitak, director of the Colorado Smart Cities nonprofit. Alliance, the organization behind the vehicles.

The alliance, a group of cities, businesses and communities promoting connected infrastructure across Colorado, partnered with the city of Golden and the Colorado School of Mines earlier this year to test a shuttle system autonomous serving the school’s 5,000 students. The pilot will eventually include seven active autonomous shuttles – the most EasyMile ever deployed in one location, Svitak said.

Most projects testing nascent transportation technology typically only deploy one or two vehicles.

“What’s unique is the scale,” Svitak said. “EasyMile has never had a fleet of this size before – and the ODD, or field of operational design, which is basically where it operates – is complex. Not the most complex they’ve ever had to do, but for example, it’s mixed traffic, on public roads, there are roundabouts, and other things, including relatively modest daily traffic.

Golden, a Denver suburb of about 20,000 residents, sits at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and has many roundabouts and hills for shuttles.

Reviews of the six-person shuttles, called Mile Rovers, have been positive so far, said Chelsea Barrett, director of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance and herself a frequent passenger on the shuttle. Barrett said the students aboard the shuttles were “always very excited to talk about the project” and felt “inspired” to attend a school so involved in emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles.

Half of the operational costs of the project are covered by the Colorado School of Mines, while the other half comes from students, who voted to support the pilot project next year.

Engineering and social science students are also working on research projects related to shuttles and application development, such as a passenger counter, Svitak said.

“The town and the mining school are starting to hear from people who might complain about being stuck behind a slow shuttle, but for the most part the feedback has been great, especially for users who might have a disability for example. and did not. have a way to get around, or for students who don’t want to go up a hill, ”he said.

The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, which plans to expand the project to Colorado Springs and Greenwood City next year, is also developing a strategy guide for other organizations, businesses and civic tech communities to learn from. as the pilot continues. The group recently joined a supergroup comprising other smart city organizations across the country, and sharing information from autonomous vehicle pilots is one of the potential benefits of the move, Svitak said.

“We want to use this project so that industry – cities, [departments of transportation], transit agencies – to know what we had to go through and generally what any project will have to go through to get there, ”he said.

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