Driverless shuttles launching in downtown St. Pete

Local News

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The City of St. Petersburg will officially launch its driverless vehicle transportation system on Monday.

“We are officially introducing the world, or Pinellas County to a temporary resident of St. Pete. Her name is AVA and she is an autonomous vehicle,” said Stephanie Rank with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

AVA, which stands for Autonomous Vehicle Advantage, will be introduced during a ceremony at Albert Whitted Park Monday at 10 a.m.

Some people may have already spotted AVA on Bayshore Drive, where it was doing some test runs. But Monday is its official launch.

Eight cameras will help the shuttle navigate up and down Bayshore Boulevard as it connects passengers to the Downtown Looper and the Cross Bay Ferry. A co-pilot will be there in case there are any issues.

“AVA will actually be going in mixed traffic so she will have cars in front of her, in back of her, and alongside of her,” Rank said.

The shuttle will also gather information about passengers’ experiences. It will be downtown for the next three months.

“Maybe in the future ava could connect you to your home or to a certain place that’s closer to your home than an actual bus stop. Again, this is in test mode or pilot mode, but we are connecting that data,” said Rank.

The shuttle is an electric vehicle. It’s charged every night and will be ready to run each day.

“Once you experience AVA you get a sense of what the technology can provide as well as what it can provide safety wise all while providing a clean energy solution to transform transportation,” Rank added.

The ride is free, but space is limited. It will take up to four people or six from the same group during the pandemic.

The shuttle runs Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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