Las Vegas launches first self-driving shuttle pilot project in the United States



On Wednesday, Nov. 8, the nation’s first self-driving shuttle pilot project designed specifically for the public was launched in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pilot project will utilize an autonomous shuttle from Navya.

The goal of the one-year pilot project, which is a result of a partnership between AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah (AAA), the city of Las Vegas, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) and Keolis North America (Keolis), is to provide Las Vegas residents and visitors with a first-hand experience of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, providing many people with their first hands-on experience with the technology.

Las Vegas was reportedly chosen as the city to launch this landmark pilot project by AAA because of the “state's progressive regulations on autonomous vehicles, heavy investment in innovation, the high volume of visitors and a sunny, dry climate that's favorable for testing new driving technology.”

“Las Vegas is a global leader in innovation and sustainability and we are excited to partner with AAA, Keolis and the RTC to bring the NAVYA autonomous shuttle back to Las Vegas,” says Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

“The shuttle will be a great fit in fabulous downtown Las Vegas within our Innovation District, where we are forerunners in testing new technologies.”

Building off of a limited shuttle launch in downtown Las Vegas earlier this year by Keolis, this pilot project will cover a 0.6-mile loop in the Fremont East "Innovation District" of downtown Las Vegas, which is known for being very busy.

People will be provided free rides on the shuttle so that they can experience autonomous transportation in a real-world environment. To get an idea of riders’ experiences, AAA will conduct surveys to determine whether or not a personal experience with this technology had any impact on their perception of autonomous vehicles.

During the pilot project, the Navya Arma fully electric shuttle, which will be operated and maintained by Keolis, will become the first self-driving vehicle to be “fully integrated with a city's traffic infrastructure,” as the shuttle will be able to communicate with traffic signals, in an effort to improve safety and traffic flow.

Capable of seating eight passengers with seatbelts, the Navya shuttle is equipped with LiDAR technology, GPS and cameras, and it also has a variety of safety features, including its ability to automatically and immediately brake if a pedestrian crosses its path.

AAA will use the pilot project as an opportunity to study how the shuttle interacts in a live traffic environment, and it will also look at how pedestrians and cyclists react to the vehicle when sharing the same streets.

According to a note posted on the official Tumblr page of the Las Vegas city government, on the same day of the shuttle's launch, it was involved in a "minor incident" when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown. The note said that the shuttle's sensors registered the truck, allowing it to stop to avoid the accident, but the delivery truck did not stop, which led to it grazing the front fender of the shuttle. While the shuttle was kept out of service for the rest of the day, the pilot project is expected to continue.