Jacksonville Transportation Authority converting part of Skyway 'people mover' for autonomous vehicle testing

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has announced that it will convert a portion of the existing Skyway “people mover” into an elevated test track for autonomous vehicles.

The Skyway track conversion will allow JTA to test autonomous vehicles in an elevated environment, and ultimately provide a road map to eventually convert the Skyway system for new autonomous electric vehicles, according to JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford.

“We are advancing whatever is the mobility or whatever the mode that fits the bill, and not just our 40-foot bus,” Ford told News4Jax, via WJCT.

While full details have not been released yet about the conversion, it is assumed, according to WJCT, that the autonomous vehicles would take transit riders from the new Regional Transit Center to the Jefferson Street Station, and from there, riders could transfer to existing Skyway monorail cars to continue their journey.

Plans also call for expanding what’s currently called the “Skyway to ground level,” which would allow the autonomous vehicles to go the stadium area, as well as other expansion locations.

According to JTA, the working name for the next-generation Skyway is U2C, which stands for Ultimate Urban Circulator.

The Skyway track conversion is the next phase of JTA’s vision to eventually replace and expand the existing Skyway with autonomous electric vehicles. Phase one of testing saw JTA open its first autonomous vehicles test track in December, and offer rides to the public in April.

During those tests, the test vehicle had an operator on board, and it could hold a maximum of 12 people. JTA plans to rotate a new autonomous vehicle in every six months, as it determines what is needed and driverless technology advances.