Self-driving shuttle hits Tampa streets for passenger service

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A self-driving shuttle hit the streets of Tampa for passenger service Monday, giving commuters a state-of-the-art mode of transportation.

The shuttle runs on the Marion Street corridor in the heart of the city.

The big feature of the vehicle is what is missing: it has no steering wheel. A specialist is on board to make sure things run smoothly.

“I think it’s safer than depending on man sometimes because we’re more faulty than the technology,” said Milton Malphus, a Tampa resident who said he plans to try the new service.

Others were not so sure.

“I think I’d have to see the technology work on actual streets not test streets before I do it,” Fred McClure, a Tampa resident, told News Channel 8’s Ryan Hughes.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority sent photos to News Channel 8 showing a recent training by emergency crews.

A Tampa Fire Rescue Department spokesman said first responders know how to deal with accidents or incidents involving autonomous vehicles because they have dealt with electric vehicles for years.

HART leaders hope the shuttle catches on with commuters.

“Really what we’re looking for is to A) gain the confidence of the community of riding on autonomous vehicle and collecting all of that data to see how the vehicle is used and how much more we can expand upon this in the future,” said Ruthie Reyes Burkhart, the deputy chief of transportation for HART.

The outside of the vehicle features eight cameras to give a 360-degree perspective of the surroundings.

The vehicle is operated by HART and Beep, an Orlando based company.

“Founded by experienced fleet managers and technology entrepreneurs, Beep delivers the next generation of services for passenger mobility. From route planning to onboard interactive services, our offerings are designed to delight the passengers of our customers. We provide these services to fleet operators across the public and private sector,” Beep says on its website.

Below are some facts about the HART Smart AV:

  • Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the initial launch phase
  • Stops include: Transit Hub Bay F, Fort Brooke (Southbound), Washington (Northbound), and Kennedy (Northbound)
  • The vehicle is 100% electric and will cost less than $30 a month to charge

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