Denver's RTD Deploys First Autonomous Shuttle in Local Pilot Program

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【Summary】At the moment, all autonomous rides along 61AV are free. So far, feedback about the service from locals have been positive.

Michael Cheng    Mar 12, 2019 8:20 AM PT
Denver's RTD Deploys First Autonomous Shuttle in Local Pilot Program

When in Denver, ride an autonomous shuttle. Such activities are now available in the city, thanks to Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD), in collaboration with Transdev, Panasonic and France-based EasyMile.

The driverless shuttle service officially launched after a ribbon-cutting ceremony showcased the units to the public. Located near the airport, the service is designed for local commuters passing through busy transit areas. It's important to highlight this is the first on-road, self-driving shuttle deployed in Colorado.

61AV Autonomous Route

Called 61AV, the pre-programmed route allocated to the self-driving shuttles runs from 61st & Peña commuter rail station to the Panasonic and EasyMile offices, as well as to the 61st & Peña Park-n-Ride lot. The four-stop trip takes roughly 15 minutes to complete. At the end of the route, the vehicles must loop back, resulting in a continuous service that is suitable for supporting peak commuting hours.

"RTD is pleased to participate in this groundbreaking partnership to explore how innovations in mobility are creating new and expanded opportunities for public transportation," said Dave Genova, CEO and General Manager of RTD.

"The 61AV partnership allows us to interface directly with an autonomous vehicle demonstration and assess how this technology can be applied in a transit setting to meet the future mobility needs of the people and communities we serve."

At the moment, all autonomous rides along 61AV are free. The shuttles operate from Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm. According to RTD officials, the service will operate in the area for six months. During the trial, RTD and other participants of the pilot program will assess the feasibility of incorporating autonomous buses with public transportation services.

EasyMile EZ10 Driverless Bus

For the local pilot program, the autonomous shuttles are provided by EasyMile. Operated and managed by Chicago-based Transdev, the fleet of EZ10 buses is powered by electric batteries. Transdev also provides a representative for the service, which is present inside the bus at all times. Basic public transportation features, including accessible wheelchair ramps, air conditioning and passenger assistance panels, can be found inside every shuttle.

Without a human driver, a steering wheel and driving pedals, the interior appears to be very spacious. Large windows allow people to view their surroundings. Passengers may charge portable electronic devices via USB stations.  

Two-way communication facilitated by microphones and cameras between individuals and RTD operators is also available during autonomous rides. So far, feedback about the service from locals have been positive. The units travel at an average speed of 12-15 mph. Every autonomous shuttle can accommodate a total of 12 passengers.

"We're excited to see how driverless technology will work in Denver and to embrace new, innovative and better mobility options to move more people and improve travel for residents and visitors alike," highlighted Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver.

In other parts of the world, EasyMile self-driving shuttles are supporting new public transportation projects. The buses have been deployed in over 22 countries and have served more than 320,000 passengers to date – without any accidents.

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