Arlington Residents Explore Driverless Transportation Technology

The public, community leaders and Arlington City Council got a first-hand look at the future of transportation technology Thursday morning by taking a trip in a self-driving transit shuttle.

Those who climbed aboard marveled as the small, battery-powered EasyMile shuttle made a slow loop between Arlington Convention Center parking lots, able to avoid obstacles through the help of numerous sensors. The 12-passener shuttle, which has no steering wheel, operates autonomously by following a virtual line mapped and loaded into the software of the vehicle.

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The public and city and community leaders took rides on EasyMile’s EZ10 autonomous shuttle at the Arlington Convention Center on February 2, 2017.

“We are getting to try out new technology in transportation – technology that is going to be much cheaper and safer,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said. “It should be no surprise Arlington wants to be on the cutting edge of whatever is going on. We want to investigate, try it out and see what may work. I don’t know where it may go but the opportunities are endless.”

The demonstration of the EZ10 shuttle, followed by a roundtable discussion with local business and government leaders about how Arlington can become a leader in the deployment of autonomous vehicles, was part of the Alliance for Transportation Innovations’ national Autonomous Vehicle Road Trip.

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Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, third from left, and Arlington City Council members Kathryn Wilemon, Sheri Capehart, Lana Wolff, Victoria Farrar-Myers and Michael Glaspie were among those who tested out the EasyMile autonomous shuttle.

The event at the Arlington Convention Center was hosted by the City of Arlington and the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

“The 2017 Autonomous Vehicle Road Trip brings together innovations in automated vehicle technology, application type, and energy source in a single innovative package,” said Michael Morris, P.E., Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

“The region needs to take steps like this to position itself as a leader on automated vehicle technology to bring safety, capacity, air quality, energy and mobility option improvements to our residents,” Morris added.

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Local media interviewed city and community leaders about the future of autonomous vehicles.

At Thursday’s meeting with Arlington regional transportation officials, Brubaker said federal rules and laws in some states are hindering the deployment of self-driving technologies.

“Self-driving vehicles will change the way we live, work and play. They will improve safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. And they will reduce costs associated with loss of life and property, traffic congestion and delays,” ATI21 President and CEO Paul Brubaker said.

But when it comes to self-driving vehicles, seeing is believing, Brubaker said.

“The problem is most people have only heard news reports about these revolutionary technologies. The aim of this tour is to give them the chance to ride in a vehicle with no steering wheel, pedals or driver so they can begin to get comfortable with the concept,” he said.

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The 12-passener shuttle, which has no steering wheel, operates autonomously by following a virtual line mapped and loaded into the software of the vehicle.

Arlington Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon, who has served on numerous transportation committees, was among those who rode the shuttle as it navigated without a driver through a course set up in the parking lot of the Arlington Convention Center.

“The people that are here are all so impressed you can get on, you can ride safely in a controlled area,” Wilemon said. “For Arlington, technology is where we are trying to move with our transportation.”

Members of the council-appointed Transportation Advisory Committee were invited to ride the self-driving shuttle and talk with the vendor about possible opportunities for use within The American Dream City.

“This technology that we are piloting today is a great example of some of the different types of technology that committee will be looking to as they are starting to develop recommendations for Arlington’s transportation plan in the future,” said Alicia Winkelblech, Assistant Director of Strategic Planning for Arlington’s Community Development and Planning Department.