Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JTA Demonstrates Driverless Vehicles to Replace Skyway; Board Approves the Development Phase of New Vehicles for Transit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JTA Demonstrates Driverless Vehicles to Replace Skyway; Board Approves the Development Phase of New Vehicles for Transit

Article excerpt

Byline: Amanda Williamson

Jacksonville residents and officials boarded a driverless vehicle Wednesday to experience what likely will be the future of transit here.

The rounded red-and-black vehicle navigated its way seamlessly through the parking lot across from Intuition Ale Works on East Bay Street. It slipped past a concrete pole without bumping the obstacle - and when a reporter accidentally stepped in front of the oncoming vehicle, it stopped.

All without a driver, without rails and without a guide.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority executives are turning to driverless vehicles to replace the aging and limited Skyway rail system, and worked with a vendor to offer a demonstration for those interested. The Easy Mile EZ10 allowed approximately 100 potential customers to see, touch and ride a vehicle utilizing next generation autonomous technology.

What these residents seemed to care about most, however, wasn't the new technology, but the reliability of the system. They wanted to know could it get them from where they are, to where they want to be - and a lot of times, they said, that isn't on the current Skyway route.

"The opportunity to perhaps expand the mass transportation here in Jacksonville," Lamar Campbell said when asked what drew him to the demonstration. "The Skyway doesn't go to many places. It's very expensive to maintain, and expansion is a tremendous burden on taxpayers."

Though she's never been in an autonomous vehicle before, Jennifer Kennedy, a traffic engineer in Jacksonville, believes the smaller vehicle will allow more versatility and allow JTA to reach further into the city.

She isn't wrong.

Future plans for the Skyway will include removing the guide beam from current infrastructure and creating access points along existing routes. These points will allow the driverless vehicles to leave the elevated pathway and merge onto roadways on dedicated lanes. This way, JTA can expand into areas such as Riverside, Brooklyn and San Marco without constructing additional structures within the communities. …

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