While a lot of attention has been paid to the electric scooters dropped virtually overnight in downtown Salt Lake City last June, another disruptive transportation technology is about to make its debut in Utah.
At the December meeting of the Utah Transportation Commission, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), in partnership with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), announced they have selected the company, Easy Mile to operate the first self-driving demonstration shuttle in Utah.
The shuttle would be deployed at several key locations across the state to support connections to transit, improve mobility for underserved populations and facilitate access to local businesses. While other states are parading self-driving vehicles around as shiny new objects for the public to admire, UDOT and UTA are seeking to utilize the technology in a way that makes the best use of taxpayer resources and improves the functioning of the overall transportation system. They also want the public to experience the shuttle first-hand and provide their feedback.
The Easy Mile shuttle can hold up to 15 people and would first be deployed at the State Capitol building during the legislative session. The shuttle would operate on low-speed roads or pathways via a pre-programmed route, with an on-board host available to answer questions and ensure rider safety. The objectives of the service in the long-term would be to support first-and-last mile connections to/from transit, increase safety, and improve air quality.
Six to eight other locations in the state under consideration include universities, hospitals, event centers, and business centers where a self-driving shuttle would serve as a circulator to get people from a transit hub to a high-traffic destination.