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Bloomington, Ind., Looks to Driverless Future with Autonomous Bus Test

The city will soon serve as a temporary testbed for autonomous buses. Officials see the tests as an opportunity to familiarize their city with the technology.

(TNS) -- A city-sponsored driverless bus initiative is expected to close part of a downtown street starting Thursday morning.

The city is preparing to launch its "Fast Forward Bloomington" initiative, which will highlight "the potential impact of cutting-edge technology on the city," according to a news release. City officials plan to launch the initiative by featuring the first driverless bus demonstration in the state, and they invite the public to be a part of the event.

“Driverless buses will certainly be in our future, so we’re excited to be the first city in Indiana to have a public demonstration of this up-and-coming technology,” Mayor John Hamilton said in a news release. “Technology changes the world every day, and Fast Forward Bloomington experiences will give folks a hands-on feel for what’s coming our way. It’s important for our city to get a glimpse of our transportation future, because we need to be planning for it now.”

EasyMile, a French autonomous vehicle maker, will be offering free rides on the driverless bus. Preparations will take place Thursday, with Hamilton and guests taking the inaugural ride at 10 a.m. Friday. After that, members of the public can ride on the vehicle until 4:30 p.m. Friday.

According to Tom Miller, the city's director of innovation, the initial allotment of 160 tickets were claimed in just over 24 hours. The city plans to announce additional opportunities to ride in the next couple of days through its social media channels. Though tickets aren't mandatory, they are preferred to allow for a steady flow of passengers.

City spokeswoman Mary Catherine Carmichael said the event will feature a demonstration by Pedego Electric Bikes, a booth from the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, music, food vendors, specials from retailers and restaurants around the event and even an appearance by Carl Cook's replica of the first horseless carriage in Bloomington.

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Normal road access will resume following the event.

©2017 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.