When you hear the word self-driving, the next thing that may come to mind is cars. Most likely though, the first autonomous vehicles that become commonplace will be for public transport in the form of buses and shuttles. Recently, we’ve seen places like New York City, Finland, and Zhengzhou all testing various types of autonomous public transport. And now Providence, Rhode Island is the latest city to experiment with driverless technology.
Autonomous shuttles have been transporting about 100 passengers per day along a pre-determined route in Providence. Nicknamed “Little Roady”, the box-shaped vehicles are about the size of a minivan and can hold 5 passengers along with an attendant. They come from Ann Arbor, Michigan-based May Mobility who has been testing in the city for the past two months. The shuttles have been making 12 stops along a 5.3-mile route connecting the Amtrak station to downtown Providence, along with the Olneyville Square neighborhood.
Providence Autonomous Shuttles Operate 7 Days a Week
Going at speeds up to 25 mph, the electric shuttles can run day and night, in all types of weather. Onboard lidar, radar and camera sensors help the shuttles navigate the streets and avoid anything that may get in its way. The vehicles follow the exact same route as all turns, traffic lights, and stops are embedded into the navigation system. If a special situation arises, the shuttle can easily be put into manual mode for the human attendant to take control.
The shuttles are free and operate 7 days a week between 6:30 AM and 6:30 PM. Residents have gotten used to the vehicles and many are using the service to go to and from work. May Mobility has also been testing their driverless shuttles in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio. The testing in Providence will last about a year. No word yet on if they will eventually become a permanent fixture in the city.