FutureStructure

Autonomous Shuttles Make Their Way to Las Vegas

During the GO-NV Summit, both Local Motors and Keolis discussed plans to bring their self-driving shuttles to the Las Vegas area.

by Adam Candee, Las Vegas Sun / January 5, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

(TNS) -- Whether it’s an Olli or a NAVLY, Southern Nevadans and tourists could be getting around busy areas of the valley in driverless shuttles in the near future.

Both Local Motors and Keolis discussed plans to bring their self-driving shuttles to the Las Vegas area Tuesday at Mandalay Bay during the GO-NV Summit, presented by the Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility. The half-day conversation about the future of technology, data, and policy surrounding transportation in Nevada focused heavily on automation.

Local Motors unveiled its Olli design in June while Keolis and French partner Navya announced its NAVLY vehicle in September. Both driverless shuttles are being tested in other areas (Olli in Maryland, NAVLY in Lyon, France) and likely will debut here in 2017.

Keolis North America CEO Clement Michel said an open test of the NAVLY would take place in the Fremont East District next week. The so-called “innovation district” highlighting technology in the downtown area could be home to technology like NAVLY soon, Las Vegas spokesman Jace Radke said.

“The City of Las Vegas continues to move forward with plans for an innovation district downtown that would feature testing of autonomous vehicles, as well as other new technology,” Radke said.

Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers gave the keynote address Tuesday and later expressed confidence that Olli could be operating at UNLV this year, as well as in downtown and on the Strip.

“It will be here in Las Vegas,” Rogers said. “I just can’t say when.”

Local Motors, a Phoenix-based company, describes its Olli design as a self-driving shuttle that can operate on fixed route or be called via a smartphone app, allowing the rider to share a ride or charter a vehicle of their own. NAVLY operates on fixed routes and can transport up to 15 people at a time.

Autonomous vehicles and their related infrastructure owned much of the discussion at GO-NV, as panelists from local agencies including the Regional Transportation Commission and Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles joined national and international experts to discuss advancements and challenges in the field.

Many offered pairing the fast speed of technological advancement with the deliberate pace of government regulation as a continual challenge, one which Nevada officials attempt to defeat by allowing companies to self-certify their vehicles. This essentially allows the company to meet a set of testing-based standards and then accept responsibility for the performance of its autonomous vehicles.

The rapid development of self-driving technology also tests the limits of public confidence, as drivers get used to the idea of the sedan next to them rolling across Interstate 15 at 65 miles per hour with no driver behind the wheel.

“We can’t get too far ahead of the public on this,” said Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation. “There is an element of trust. They have to be brought along with this.”

Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility officials also announced a partnership with the GENIVI Alliance, a collective of automaker and parts suppliers, to increase safety through the use of connectivity. It describes the partnership as “a phased approach to demonstrate how in-vehicle communications technology and vehicle data can integrate with existing transportation infrastructure to deliver information to the driver regarding road conditions and increase awareness of other road users including pedestrians to create a safer and more connected transportation network.”

Examples include:

  • Bus stop warnings : Alerting drivers of upcoming bus stops and pedestrian traffic ahead in order to reduce speeds and improve awareness of pedestrian activity
  • High-risk warning areas: Using a vehicle’s position and time of day to display an in-vehicle warning as the vehicle nears pedestrian crosswalks
  • Speeding warning: Displays a warning to drivers that they are exceeding the current speed limit.
  • Traffic stopped ahead: Provides drivers with an alert of traffic conditions ahead by displaying a warning of upcoming traffic jams and the proximity to the backup to reduce the chance of potential rear-end collisions.

©2017 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.