People getting a lift to Peoria Spring Training games should not expect the van driver to be chatty.
Indeed, they shouldn’t even expect a driver.
Peoria City Council last week approved an autonomous shuttle, launching in the P83 District Feb. 22 — just in time for spring ball.
The shuttle is not entirely android, as a human attendant will be onboard during rides for safety.
The shuttle holds up to 10 passengers at a time and hits a maximum speed of 15 mph.
Kevin Burke, Public Works director, gave the presentation asking council for $78,500 to fund the Autonomous Vehicle Demonstration Project in P83. Council approved transferring the money from the Transit Fund Contingency to the Transit Fund Other Professional Services Account to fund the project.
Burke noted the project was discussed in a June 2019 study session on “The Future of Mobility.”
“Autonomous vehicles are an impending part of the mobility future,” Burke said.
A portion of the 2020 transportation sales tax “was earmarked for a possible autonomous vehicle demonstration project if an opportunity presented itself,” Burke said. “The city is now in a position to implement such an opportunity.”
The company behind the driverless shuttle is NAVYA, based in France. It will provide a low-speed autonomous shuttle for a 60-day demonstration in Peoria.
NAVYA partners with Beep Autonomous Mobility Solutions to coordinate and implement the demonstration programs. So the Peoria contract is with Beep to services.
The electric, driverless shuttle is to launch Saturday, Feb. 22.
It will operate daily through mid-April from noon to 6 p.m. in the P83 Entertainment District on Arrowhead Fountain Center Drive from Huntington University to Paradise Lane.
The shuttle has no steering wheel or pedals. It will use a preprogrammed, fixed route with a combination of localization techniques, involving high-powered electronics and cameras.
The shuttle is free and no appointments are needed.
And the driverless shuttle is ADA accessible from mid-February to mid-April 2020. This would coincide with the City’s Spring Training and peak tourist season.
“This transportation pilot is a unique experiment for our community,” said Mayor Cathy Carlat. “We see this as an important step as we seek to understand some of the innovative solutions existing around the world, and how they bring value to Peoria residents.”
A demonstration route in the P83 entertainment district will run along North Arrowhead Fountain Center Drive from Huntington University to the loop with West Paradise Lane.
According to the council presentation, the demonstration project has three goals:
•Determine suitability of the technology for First Mile/Last Mile autonomous service.
•Observe Peoria resident and visitor adoption responses of the technology.
•Advance the Peoria brand as being innovative and distinctive.
Burke emphasized, “the vehicle has a spotless safety record with no crashes or injuries.” It has been demonstrated in Las Vegas, the University of Michigan and the University of Nebraska.
Peoria will be Beep/NAVYA’s first demonstration project in Arizona.
Burke had no reservations about the driverless shuttle, and the future it suggests:
“It could be a game-changer for Peoria transit.”
For more information, visit peoriaaz.gov/transit or go-beep.com.