Sacramento State planning for self-driving electric shuttle


Sacramento State's University Transportation and Parking Services (UTAPS) is looking into bringing a self-driving electric shuttle to campus.

Right now, the shuttle is in the planning stages by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), UTAPS, the City of Sacramento and Regional Transit.

UTAPS Director Tony Lucas says that the goal of the project is to “ease commute times for students who use the light rail,” as the shuttle would take commuters from the 65th Street Light Rail Station to campus. Lucas says that a dedicated track operating from the station to campus— without having to go through rush-hour traffic on Folsom Boulevard—will help accomplish that goal.

Lucas and SACOG Senior Analyst Raef Porter have both named the Hornet Tunnel near the school’s football practice field and Folsom Boulevard as a potential route for the shuttle. According to Lucas, if the tunnel is chosen as the official route, the shuttle should only take up half of it, leaving the rest of the space for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Drake Mather, a junior history major, doesn't think it would be ideal for the shuttle to take up half of the tunnel, but he does believe that a self-driving shuttle would be extremely helpful and make students feel safer, especially those like him who frequently walk to and from campus.

Jessica Ayau, a junior family and consumer sciences major, agrees.

“It’s safe because it’s faster,” Ayau says via the State Hornet, the student news site of Sacramento State University. “(The tunnel) is kinda sketchy during the day (too).”

According to Porter, some of the other considerations to think about in regards to the self-driving shuttle, in addition to location and safety concern, include the companies to provide the actual vehicles, legislative hurdles and raising capital. Porter says that talks with self-driving vehicle vendors have already taken place, although those vendors cannot be named because of proprietary reasons.

Being that self-driving vehicles are prohibited on the public streets of Sacramento, Porter says SACOG would provide legislative assistance to help make the vehicle a reality for Sacramento State. This could include the possibility of drafting legislation that allows autonomous shuttles to go on public right-of-way.

SACOG would also provide assistance with funding for the project, which would come from state and federal resources, such as Caltrans.

Porter says that for the next six months, the project will be in the planning stage. A pilot program is set to follow once funding, contracts and compliances with regulations are in place, which is predicted to be in between June and December 2019.

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