Don't be surprised to see an autonomous vehicle cruising the Tri-Valley streets again this summer; the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority recently started non-passenger testing on its shared autonomous vehicle (SAV) project with partnering mobility company Transdev.
Public transit riders would have a new connection option between the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and local job centers, once SAV testing is finished and the program is in full swing.
The autonomous vehicle is designed to travel at low speeds with a maximum speed of 13 mph; a safety operator will be on board at all times. According to LAVTA, the SAV will operate in "mixed traffic" along a route that's just under one mile long, and includes two stops and one traffic light.
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who sits on the LAVTA board and secured the project's funding through a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said in a statement that he's glad to see the pilot project progressing and thanked Transdev for their collaboration.
"I am confident we will soon be carrying passengers on this zero-emission service to employment, retail and residential destinations located near the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station," Haggerty said.
The SAV boasts 100% electric power and cutting-edge cameras, sensors and GPS capabilities, as well as an access ramp. Testing will take place this summer and passengers should be allowed to board the vehicle when its initial service starts by late August, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"We are excited to begin testing with LAVTA and bring this area's vision for autonomous vehicles to life," said Neal Hemenover, vice president of innovation for Transdev. "It's important to note that the health and safety of our employees, passengers and communities is our highest priority and all EPA and CDC-approved social distancing and cleaning protocols will be in place during testing, as well as when we start accepting passengers."
In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered EasyMile -- which manufactures the self-driving cars being used in the pilot project -- to suspend passenger operations on all of their driverless vehicles in the U.S. after a rider was minorly injured on an SAV in another state. The suspension was lifted in May.
California vehicle code permits autonomous vehicles on public roads with a driver or operator on board while operating.
To learn more about the SAV pilot project, visit www.wheelsbus.com.