From now until November, self-driving cars will zoom around the Circle City. In the shadow of the Racing Capital of the World, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, autonomous shuttles are now in operation around the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis Campus (IUPUI). Through a partnership with May Mobility, the Toyota Mobility Foundation, the Energy Systems Network, and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the public can now receive free rides on any of May Mobility’s autonomous shuttles in the area. In fact, riders can check the location of the shuttles in real-time and map their trips. Altogether, this project represents an opportunity for all stakeholders to get a better idea of how autonomous technology can interact with real-world conditions.
In planning this project, May Mobility sought to assist IndyGo’s innovative Red Line in last-mile transport. The IndyGo Red Line is a rapid bus transit system designed to run right through the heart of the city. According to IndyGo, “The Red Line rolls within a quarter mile of more than 50,000 residents and nearly 150,000 jobs — that’s one in every four jobs in all of Marion County.” By connecting riders to this main line, May Mobility can fill transit gaps that no other transit option could address. The fact of the matter is that rail and rapid bus transit must stick to tracks and designated paths that benefit the most riders possible. Shuttles are able to serve niche areas and play a role as an invaluable connector to major systems. Autonomous shuttles have the potential to be the most inclusive public transit option as they can reach places that might be inefficient for other transit options.
The Toyota Mobility Foundation serves to address all kinds of mobility challenges in the modern world. For instance, TMF worked to bring a multi-modal transportation system to a rural Japanese agricultural region. TMF wants to “unleash human potential” and lead the way in research innovative technology solutions that can seamlessly solve mobility problems. As a partner in this project, Toyota is able to gather data and information on how autonomous shuttles can address modern mobility challenges and work with already established transportation systems. TMF plans to take the information they learn in Indianapolis and apply it to other cities all over the country. In addition, Indianapolis and its partners are able to see just how autonomous technology can best address their transportation needs.
Autonomous shuttles are not just the technology of the future, but can actively assist our cities and citizens right now. With an unmatched ability to include all riders, autonomous shuttles will allow cities to serve all areas instead of being forced to prioritize only major economic thoroughfares. Additionally, short term projects like these serve to give consumers an opportunity to get acquainted with autonomous technology before it comes to market. By offering free rides, the opportunity cost is lowered for riders as they are more likely to experience an autonomous ride and, hopefully, alleviate any potential technological hesitancy. Autonomous shuttles have the power to radically improve the lives and transits of it users and these projects allow the technology to head off any concerns about its safety and reliability. The more the public can interact with autonomous vehicles, the more comfortable they will be with autonomous technology’s role in revolutionizing our transportation future.
The Driverless Commute serves to inform our readers about every challenge and break through on our societal push toward an autonomous future. For more information, check out our 2021 Global Guide to Autonomous Vehicles and subscribe to the Driverless Commute.