The debut of a new autonomous shuttle service in Las Vegas, the “largest trial of its kind in the United States” according to transit officials, was marred when the vehicle was involved in a slight fender-bender.
The AAA Free Self-Driving shuttle, an Arma vehicle built by Navya that utilizes LIDAR technology and GPS, was on a test run yesterday in the Fremont East neighborhood when it was hit by a delivery truck.
Here’s the city’s official response to the incident:
UPDATE: Minor incident downtown Wednesday afternoon
The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown. The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided. Testing of the shuttle will continue during the 12-month pilot in the downtown Innovation District. The shuttle will remain out of service for the rest of the day. The driver of the truck was cited by Metro.
The city’s police department said that the accident, which occurred a few minutes after noon, was the fault of the human driver, not the machine.
Sponsored by the AAA, the shuttle, with seating for 8, will be operated by Keolis, a transportation operator that runs the Deuce double-decker buses on the Strip, and has established a relationship with Las Vegas and the Regional Transportation Commission.
“This is live traffic,” says Maurice Bell, the vice president of mobility solutions for Keolis. “There’s no intervention.”
The new shuttle route, which officially starts November 8, builds off a trial held earlier this year on the Strip. To accommodate the shuttle, the city updated traffic lights and signals so they could communicate with the vehicle and adjust based on traffic flow. Keolis will position attendants on the stops along the route to make sure nobody parks where the shuttle picks up and drops off passengers.
The three-stop route, which will run on South Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street in the city’s Innovation District, will operate between 11 a.m. and 7 pm. six days a week
The company that built the shuttle, Navya, also announced this week that it will be bringing its new Autonom autonomous cab to Las Vegas in January, and run limited trials during the annual Consumer Electronics Show, ideally leading up to regular service in the city and elsewhere.
Yesterday’s minor incident won’t deter the trial, Bell says. The company will continue to collect data to help improve the shuttle, and eventually hopes to expand the network of shuttles to create a kind of “feeder service” that expands the reach of already established mass transit systems. The trial aims to provide rides for a quarter-million residents and visitors, and help expose people to AV technology for the first time while gathering data on consumer reaction and vehicle performance.