The service will initially be free for commuters, while bus drivers have raised concerns about their futures.
Rhode Island selected autonomous shuttle company May Mobility to pilot transit service between downtown Providence and the underserved Olneyville neighborhood beginning in February.
The fully electric shuttles hold six people including a fleet attendant, who can take control of the vehicle if necessary for added safety.
Free for the first year, service will eventually run along the underserved Woonasquatucket River corridor.
“This is not a permanent transit service that is being implemented,” Julia Gold, chief of sustainability and innovation at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, told Route Fifty. “Part of the reason this is free is this is a research project.”
RIDOT wants residents getting exposure to autonomous vehicle service but also to test it on state roads with local drivers and weather.
The public-private partnership is still defining the metrics the pilot will examine, but Harvard University’s Kennedy School recently facilitated a group of stakeholders, who identified quantitative and qualitative research questions aimed at understanding the service and rider experiences. For instance, officials want to know how the service works for people and if they’re typical public transit riders or people used to driving to get around, Gold said.
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