Driver-Free Shuttles Could Be Arriving in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania could soon see automated shuttles on public roads. It would be another form of public transportation, but without a human operator. 20 states have implemented a form of automated shuttles on their roadways. Now, lawmakers here in Pennsylvania are looking to add the Commonwealth to that group.
“[House Bill] 1078 authorizes the use of an autonomous shuttle vehicle, exactly like the one behind me, it would allow PennDOT to initiate this program and oversee it,” says Representative Jim Marshall (R- Beaver, Butler), the Bill’s Sponsor.
Currently, autonomous vehicles are only allowed to operate on private roads. For public roads, a driver is required to be behind the wheel. If House Bill 1078 passes, that requirement would be lifted, and automatic shuttles would be introduced. This would allow Pennsylvania residents to get around without their own car.
“Getting people to where they need to be for their daily routines, getting them together, getting them on an electric, clean vehicle, and getting them there safely,” says Leslie Richards, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
These shuttles would travel on a specified route, without an operator. Rep. Marshall says the vehicles will travel at low speeds, and riders will feel safe once they experience it. He equated the experience to other forms of technology that used to have human operators, but don’t now.
“This vehicle is a low-speed vehicle, that’s the idea is to have a low-speed vehicle. I think people will be comfortable once they try it. I can remember when elevators had operators on them, and people get on them all the time now,” Rep. Marshall explains.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation rolled out autonomous shuttles during the Super Bowl it recently held. The shuttles were used to get people from the parking lot to the stadium. Secretary Richards says of the more than 1,000 people who rode those shuttles for the first time, 95% of them felt safe doing so.
There’s no word yet on what the cost would be to hitch a ride on one of the automated shuttles.
If the state Legislature approves House Bill 1078, we could see automated shuttles on Pennsylvania roads within a year of the Bill being passed.