Bay Area autonomous shuttle pilot program heads toward next phase

Bishop Ranch is still running an autonomous shuttle taking passengers between office buildings in the large East Bay office park. But the current technology hasn’t yet reached the next milestone required for the vehicles to cross a major signalized intersection. Safety first responder signoff is the last step needed to allow the autonomous shuttle to cross the street.

As readers may remember, the shuttles have been driving autonomously on a fixed route within the business park, operating with a concierge who can help passengers and take charge in case of emergency.

The ability to cross a major signalized street would allow autonomous shuttles to provided higher value services – taking passengers to and from the new shopping area, and allowing the shuttles to be used as last mile connectors bringing passengers to and from an express bus transit hub off the highway.

While Bishop Ranch is continuing to troubleshoot the ability to cross the signalized intersection with the current technology, it expects to take the next steps in the program with next-generation technology that will be evaluated by a regional partnership supporting the pilot.

Contra Costa Transportation Authority – with its GoMentum Station public private partnership initiative with AAA and a number of private companies – is working on the next steps to explore new models of electric and autonomous vehicles for a variety of local use cases, including express bus last mile connections.

These initiatives are being managed under the “Innovate 680″ program program which includes shared mobility hubs in the 680 corridor area that have the potential to include share autonomous vehicles for first and last mile connections.

The autonomous shuttle technology has substantial promise for these first and last mile uses, and it is an iterative process to get a system that will be mature for large-scale use.