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Self-Driving Shuttles to Transport Office Workers in California Pilot Project

Two EZ10 "Shared Driverless Vehicles" should be cruising about the Bishop Ranch business park in San Ramon by next summer.

A French company has won approval to bring low-speed driverless shuttles to a business park in San Ramon, Calif., for a pilot project next year.

EasyMile, a collaboration between the Ligier Group and Robosoft, will deploy two of the shuttles to the Bishop Ranch business park next year, according to a Monday press release from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. The vehicles will be driving around the business park — 585 acres and an office site for companies like Chevron and General Electric, according to Bishop Ranch marketing materials — by summer 2016.

EasyMile has already successfully deployed EZ10 “Shared Driverless Vehicles” in Italy, France, Finland, Spain and Switzerland. According to the group’s website, the shuttles typically lack a steering wheel, can carry up to 12 passengers at once and have a maximum speed of about 25 mph with a cruising speed of about 12 mph. They can operate on a predetermined loop or with users hailing a shuttle like a taxi.

CCTA spokesperson Linsey Willis told Silicon Beat, a technology blog run by The San Jose Mercury News, that the companies will need to add a steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator in order to meet California transportation standards.

The pilot will be the first time EasyMile deploys autonomous vehicles in the U.S., but there are several other testing efforts underway for self-driving cars, with the California Department of Motor Vehicles releasing rules for autonomous vehicle testing last year. So far, 10 companies have received permits to test autonomous vehicles, including Google, Tesla Motors and Honda.

According to Silicon Beat, EasyMile will first test the vehicles at what used to be the Concord Naval Weapons Station, but is now serving as CCTA’s GoMentum Station, a testing ground for self-driving vehicles. They will then move onto Bishop Ranch, where they will be used to ferry around office workers.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.
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