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Lincoln seeks autonomous shuttle service for 2019

July 21, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lincoln could welcome an autonomous shuttle service using driverless buses as early as next spring.

The city is testing a “self-driving micro-transit system” with a $100,000 grant awarded by Bloomberg Philanthropies for participating in its 2018 Mayors Challenge, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Lincoln officials are looking into using electric streetcars to reduce traffic congestion in several districts. Lincoln could win up to $1 million in the process to put its concept into action.

Officials would implement an autonomous shuttle pilot program if the city makes it to the next round of the challenge, said Lonnie Burklund, the city’s assistant director for Public Works and Utilities.

“In terms of the street network, there’s honestly not a lot of infrastructure that has to be built or altered,” he said.

Developers, including French manufacturer Navya, have designed autonomous shuttles to integrate into the city’s traffic, Burklund said. The shuttle relies on GPS rather than cameras, keeping the vehicle within up to 3 centimeters of its desired path, said Aaron Foster, the commercial manager for Navya’s North American division.

The autonomous shuttle will automatically begin to slow if an obstacle enters its path, he said.

“In the worst cases, if it’s an immovable obstacle, like a downed tree, the safety attendant on board can use a controller to drive around it,” Foster said.

A safety attendant would be present on each shuttle, but the vehicle would also be monitored remotely.

City officials envision riders accessing the driverless shuttle service by using a cellphone app, which would prioritize riders by the timing of their request.

The city is compiling feedback and research on its self-driving system testing to submit to Bloomberg next month. Lincoln will likely find out later this fall if it’ll advance to the next phase.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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