The Minnesota Department of Transportation recently helped launch the state’s first automated vehicle pilot project to travel public streets, making two low-speed, driverless, electric, multi-passenger shuttles called the Med City Mover available for free public rides in downtown Rochester.
[Above photo via the Minnesota DOT]
Those shuttles will operate Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, except holidays, through August 2022. The vehicles travel up to 15-miles per hour, making two stops along the route.
The Med City Mover shuttle project is a partnership that involves the Minnesota DOT, the city of Rochester, Destination Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, First Transit and EasyMile. The project plans to gather data and user-experience information during the yearlong project to help prepare for broader deployment of this technology.
“Partnership projects like this are essential to better understand the benefits, challenges and risks of automated technology,” noted Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota DOT’s commissioner, in a statement.
“Community engagement is also a priority – feedback from riders about their experiences on these vehicles will help us continue to improve our transportation system and create a future that prioritizes travel options, reliability and sustainability,” she added.
During the pilot project, the Minnesota DOT said it hopes to accomplish several goals.
The first is to engage and educate the public by providing real world automated vehicle experience.
The second is to identify any potential infrastructure gaps that could compromise safe operation of automated vehicles on public roadways.
Finally, the project seeks to advance the operation of automated vehicle technology in winter weather conditions while also increasing mobility options for a high-demand downtown urban environment.
While the shuttles are driverless, the agency said an attendant always accompanies each shuttle following state law to verify the safe operation of the vehicle and aid passengers as needed.