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California Legislator Introduces Bill to Test Self-Driving Bus in Contra Costa County

Susan Bonilla put forward a bill that would give the Contra Costa Transportation Authority the jurisdiction to test a 12-passenger, low-speed autonomous shuttle.

(TNS) -- Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla has introduced a bill to allow the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to test a driverless electric shuttle during a two-year pilot project.

Under existing law, autonomous vehicles operating on public streets must have a steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator and a driver who can take control in an emergency.

Bonilla's bill would give CCTA the authority to test a 12-passenger, low-speed autonomous shuttle that has none of those features at the Bishop Ranch Business Park in San Ramon, and GoMentum Station on the Concord Naval Weapons Station property.

"Given our state's crumbling infrastructure, combined with our commitment to reduce climate change, these people movers can be a viable alternative to personal automobiles," Bonilla, D-Concord, said in a statement. "They have the capability of conveniently connecting riders to larger transit networks and local destinations, while alleviating traffic and parking congestion, and improving mobility."

This summer, the transportation authority expects to receive two shuttles from EasyMile, a joint venture between a European vehicle manufacturer and a technology company. The shuttles seat six, with room for another six passengers to stand and travel at a top speed of 35 mph. CCTA plans to test the vehicles at 25 mph, said Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the agency.

EasyMile shuttles may provide a solution for residents from eastern Contra Costa County who don't commute to work on BART because it's difficult to find a parking space, Iwasaki said.

"You walk a block to the local bus stop and this little shuttle takes you six miles to the BART station," he said.

This is the latest autonomous vehicle project to take advantage of the 2,100-acre GoMentum Station, a research and testing hub for self-driving cars, vehicles equipped with technology to communicate with each other, "smart" traffic signals and other new technologies.

Mercedes-Benz and Honda were the first automakers to use the testing site, which simulates the many challenges self-driving vehicles might encounter in an urban environment, including railroad crossings, parking lots, curved roadways, tunnels and streets laid out like a city grid.

©2016 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.