NCDOT Issues Report on Driverless Shuttle Test

The North Carolina Department of Transportation recently released a report that provides insights regarding a Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation, or CASSI, pilot test project conducted March 6 through June 2 in the town of Cary, NC’s Bond Park.

[Above photo by NCDOT]

The shuttle’s manufacturer, Beep, as well as the town of Cary and NCDOT collaborated on this pilot project. The all-electric, low-speed automated wheelchair-accessible shuttle bus navigated a four-stop route within Bond Park, operating on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CASSI carried an average of 3.5 passengers per trip, totaling 1,718 passengers throughout the pilot test period.

“The outcomes from this pilot highlight the value of teamwork and data to evaluate how well automated vehicle technology is performing now as transit,” explained Sarah Searcy, NCDOT’s senior advisor for innovation, in a statement. “The project and this report will help inform recommendations on how the technology could be improved to best serve the public.”

She noted that the feedback from this project will inform NCDOT and Cary’s future test programs and projects. The findings also provide information to the public about the current challenges and successes of automated vehicle technology and where it may advance in the future, Searcy added.

NCDOT collected data for this report from the shuttle’s computer systems, an online rider survey, and through in person engagement. The findings explore how automated vehicle technologies might reshape the future of mobility in public spaces and illustrate the importance of interagency collaboration and transparency when testing emerging technologies.

Some of the key findings outlined in the report are:

  • Most riders had a good experience using the shuttle and with the attendant on the shuttle.
  • Some riders did not like the shuttle’s jerky braking and sudden stops.
  • New trips within Bond Park resulted from the introduction of the shuttle and some personal vehicle trips were replaced by the shuttle during the pilot period.
  • Additional testing in more complicated settings and potentially more advanced technology is needed to optimize communications between the shuttle and traffic signals.
  • Making sure the public is involved in the decision-making process about automated vehicles in their communities is important to success.

“CASSI’s success demonstrates Cary’s commitment to inspiring innovation and fostering new ideas for solving challenges for the changing needs of our community,” said Nicole Coughlin, chief innovation officer in the town of Cary.

“That means not only collecting data to gather insights but doing it in a way that is transparent and lets our community know the what, why and how we’re doing it, keeping them in mind every step of the way,” she added.

This pilot test in Cary’s Bond Park was CASSI’s fourth deployment​ since 2020, NCDOT noted.

Related articles