FutureStructure

CONNECTION: Can Self-Driving Shuttles Solve the First/Last Mile Problem?

Systems connected: Public transit, autonomous vehicles

by / June 28, 2016
The Olli self-driving shuttle in Phoenix, where Local Motors is manufacturing the vehicles. Local Motors

If people could only get to and from transit stops easier, so the theory goes, more people would use it. And then there would be fewer cars on the road causing congestion and getting into accidents, and greenhouse gas emissions would fall and more people would have access to mobility.

But how does one overcome that first and last mile issue? Many are touting autonomous shuttles as a possible solution, and it’s possible that the idea could see testing sooner rather than later. Local Motors has developed a self-driving shuttle it calls Olli that is already running around mostly private roads in National Harbor, Md. But the company is in talks to expand the system to Florida and Nevada.

Local Motors also offered the shuttle to the city that wound up winning the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge — Columbus, Ohio. Now Columbus has access to millions of dollars, and a company representative said the city has expressed interest in using Olli.