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Federal OK Delays Florida AV Shuttle Launch

Gainesville officials have postponed a program to put autonomous shuttles on the road until waivers are received by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

(TNS) — Gainesville, Fla., officials won't be rolling out its first self-driving shuttle next week as originally planned.

The city announced Friday that the launch was again delayed, pending several waivers from a government agency.

City officials in December said it would be launching at least one of four autonomous shuttles to the public in April, but additional testing delayed the launch. Those plans were pushed to Aug. 20.

Assistant City Manager Dan Hoffman said the holdup is due to waivers needed from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to meet federal standards.

The city plans to launch the free shuttle service about 45 days after receiving the waivers, though there is no timeframe for when those waivers will come.

"We can't launch these vehicles until we have the appropriate waiver from NHTSA," he said.

The city is also waiting to receive three of its other autonomous shuttles, which are coming from France.

In December, the city leaders approved City Manager Anthony Lyons to contract with Transdev Services for up to $2.7 million, which will be funded by the Florida Department of Transportation. The funds would pay for a three-year pilot program for a self-driving Regional Transit System shuttle.

The shuttle will transport up to 12 people for free through downtown Gainesville at an average speed of about 15 mph. It is fully equipped with safety features, monitors and phone chargers.

Hoffman said a Transdev operator would be in the shuttle early on for the pilot as a precaution, but that it would eventually be driverless. The operator will not drive the vehicle.

Transdev in January launched its first U.S. driverless shuttle in Babcock Ranch, a newly founded town in Southwest Florida. If Gainesville decides to rollout the RTS service, it would be the second town with a Transdev shuttle in service. Gainesville's shuttle will be one of the first in the country to run a scheduled route in mixed traffic.

The preliminary route is set to take people from the Southwest Third Street parking garage to Innovation Square near Southwest Second Avenue. The route will later be expanded from Depot Park to the University of Florida.

©2018 The Gainesville Sun, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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