Driverless Shuttle Coming Wednesday

Top speed: 25 mph. The RI Department of Transportation will be rolling out the Little Roady Pilot Project on Wednesday, May 15. (There is a route map at their website.)

The Little Roady Pilot Project brings the first self-driving shuttles to Rhode Island. The fleet of electric vehicles offers rides along a fixed route in the Woonasquatucket River Corridor of Providence, expanding transit in our neighborhoods. This initiative engages the community, stakeholders, and policy-makers in research and planning for the future of transportation.

Here are the facts:

  • Free rides to the public 7 days a week, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • 12 stops, from Olneyville Square to Providence Station
  • 20-minute trip time each direction
  • 3 and 6 vehicles running at a time – average wait is 10-15 minutes
  • Carries 5 passengers
  • Staffed with safety operator trained how to operate the vehicle manually if needed

So, will we be at the mercy of this new technology during the research phase? EcoRI reports:

Although these AVs lack a traditional steering wheel, they do have a large joystick at the ready for an attendant to take control of the vehicle at any point. If all goes as planned, the attendant, however, may go away, and the service will move up to six passengers between 12 predetermined stops along the 5.3-mile loop.

Also referred to as a “micro-transit, low-speed, driverless shuttle” I would ask, “Why has it taken so long to get to a ‘micro’ approach to public transportation?” I have often wondered while watching completely empty busses motoring by, Why not a fleet of smaller vehicles, with more of them being deployed during rush hours? They could cover separate intersecting loops . . . no schedule needed. Just show up and wait. That’s how you know you are in a city with great public transportation; you just go and wait for it.

Little Roady Shuttle launch, Wednesday, May 15

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