People looking for a quick way to get around the north section of Downtown Tampa’s Riverwalk now have an automated option.
This week, the Hillsborough Transit Authority (HART) launched a new route in downtown Tampa for HART SMART AV, a fully-automated electric transportation vehicle.
The free shuttle, operated by HART and BEEP Inc., an Orlando-based autonomous solutions provider, is now operating along the Tampa Riverwalk Monday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
The vehicle navigates a looping route through downtown Tampa streets, starting at Armature Works in Tampa Heights, running southbound near the Tampa Riverwalk, to the Barrymore Hotel and the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
"HART is proud to be the regional leader in a new era of transportation innovation in Tampa Bay," said Adelee Le Grand, HART Chief Executive Officer in a press release. "We are looking at HART SMART AV to provide valuable data and insight to assist decision-making in the delivery of transit service in the future."
HART says that the driverless shuttle is 100% electric and costs less than $30 per month to charge. It operates without a steering wheel and uses a pre-programmed, fixed route with a combination of localization techniques and state-of-the-art sensor technology.
The shuttle uses eight sensors on the outside of the vehicle providing a 360-degree view of the environment. An on-board shuttle attendant serves as an ambassador for the riders to learn more about the technology and oversee the high-quality passenger experience.
The shuttle can travel up to 15 mph in autonomous mode while along the route and has varying speeds based on the environment such as crosswalks, approaching stop signs or navigating intersections.
The shuttle will pick up riders at three stops: Armature Works, Water Works Park and the Straz Center. Any potential changes to the schedule will be announced on HART’s Twitter. This route is part of a second pilot phase for the project and consists of two autonomous shuttles that will operate from now until Jan. 1, 2022.
The first HART SMART AV first pilot route was along the Marion Transitway and allowed HART and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to collect baseline data for the technology which operated alongside HART fixed-route buses, over a railroad crossing, and through traffic lights. The additional route allows local and state agencies to test the technology in a different environment, which includes movement alongside the public and connecting activity centers on City of Tampa streets.
HART SMART AV is funded by the FDOT and is operated in a partnership between HART and BEEP, Inc.
“We are excited to expand the safe testing of autonomous shuttles within the City of Tampa’s developing Arts and Riverwalk area of downtown,” said Joe Moye, BEEP, Inc. CEO. “Providing an alternative means of connectivity seven days a week in the city will allow various members of the community to experience the future of transportation in a thriving downtown environment. Additionally, it will provide HART with the opportunity to test these technologies in a new setting as they future-ready their city with safer and sustainable mobility.”
Tampa’s autonomous shuttle comes a year after St. Petersburg launched an automated shuttle that also navigated downtown traffic to transport people along Bayshore Drive.
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