DFW Airport Considers Driverless Shuttles for Parking Lot

The airport is considering leasing a vehicle for six months for the remote south parking lot, picking up passengers and bringing them to the front of the area where a human driver would then take them to terminals.

by Kyle Arnold, The Dallas Morning News / October 2, 2019
Shutterstock/Frontpage

(TNS) — DFW International Airport officials are considering a self-driving shuttle to ferry passengers around one of its remote parking lots -- with hopes of more autonomous vehicles helping there in the future.

The airport's board will consider a contract Thursday with EasyMile to lease a vehicle for six months to rove the remote south parking lot, picking up passengers and bringing them to the front of the area where a human driver would then take them to terminals.

The six-month lease would cost $300,000 and would help the airport decide how it can use autonomous vehicles in the future for even more, like moving baggage and the bridges that connect terminals to airplanes.

"The technology is moving fast and there are a lot of companies looking at autonomous vehicles," said Paul Puopolo, the airport's executive vice president of innovation.

If approved, the test could start in November.

The EasyMile shuttles are the same kind of driverless vehicles being experimented with by governments across the country, including vans in Arlington that will take passengers to Six Flags Over Texas and AT&T Stadium.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is using self-driving shuttles to ferry passengers between the terminal, rental car facilities and parking lots. Japan Airlines is using EasyMile shuttles at Narita International Airport near Tokyo to haul checked luggage and air cargo to planes.

The vehicles are self-driving, but not humanless, Puopolo said. These particular types of vehicles require a "safety operator" on board who can stop the vehicle, open doors and also help passengers with luggage and directions.

But eventually, he said, the hope is the vehicles can operate without any employees at all.

The airport authority chose the remote lot because it can be easily mapped and programmed, and operates at low speeds without problems. The self-driving shuttles will be capped at 25 miles per hour.

"That parking lot is large and some passengers have to walk a long way to the shuttle," Puopolo said.

The 27-square-mile DFW International Airport property is too large for a test like this, he said.

©2019 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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