On Monday, two autonomous passenger shuttles built by the French company EasyMile began picking up passengers to move them around the Bishop Ranch office park in San Ramon, 35 miles east of San Francisco, as part of a pilot program that is the first of its kind in the US. Based on the same sort of technology as the driverless cars being road-tested by Uber, but here adapted as a kind of mini-bus, the EasyMile EZ10 shuttles stop at designated stops and travel 12 miles per hour, as the East Bay Times reports.
Each shuttle holds a dozen people, six seated and six standing, and come with wheelchair ramps and SOS buttons for emergencies.
The shuttles operate using lasers, GPS, and various sensors, and Habib Shamskhou, who's working on the project via consulting firm Stantec, demonstrated the sensors at work by stepping in front of one of the moving shuttles during a press demo on Monday. As it was supposed to, the shuttle came to an abrupt stop.
Still, though, as the SF Chronicle reports, the pilot is following state law and each shuttle will have "a safety driver aboard" to make any necessary emergency stops.
The developer of the office park, Sunset Development Co., purchased the EZ10 shuttles for about $500,000 apiece, and this is the second phase of the pilot program which began at GoMentum Station, the autonomous vehicle testing facility in Concord that is a public-private partnership between the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and private-sector innovators.
Ultimately, later this year, the shuttles will begin operating on public streets in San Ramon as well, as CCTA executive director Randy Iwasaki tells the Business Times. The DMV will still have to sign off on that, however, and here's just one more company that's in a race to be first to market with the first state-approved autonomous vehicles.