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Autonomous Shuttle Pilot Program May Provide Glimpse at the Future of Rochester Transit


December 8, 2016

ROCHESTER, MINN. – First Transit, Inc., the parent company of Rochester Public Transit operator, First Transit, announced Tuesday the first autonomous vehicle (AV) passenger shuttle pilot program in North America.

First Transit, in partnership with EasyMile, will pilot the AV passenger shuttle at the Bishop Ranch Office Park in San Ramon, California.

The shuttle will connect tenants to multiple transit options including bus, bike and car-sharing services. The AV passenger shuttle will run a fixed-route stopping at designated stops within the office park. The pilot will begin with two vehicles — each with a customer service agent onboard for passenger questions and information.
The announcement comes as the City of Rochester Public Works Department is undertaking a Transit Circulator Study as one of four integrated transportation studies to more closely examine the infrastructure needs of the Destination Medical Center transportation vision.

In October, SRF Consulting Group, Inc. hosted a transit technology workshop, in conjunction with the DMCC board meeting, to showcase state-of-the-art, high-frequency transit circulator options, including autonomous vehicles.

The AV passenger shuttle is designed to travel short distances using pre-programmed routes. Each passenger shuttle is equipped with a sensor and intelligent vehicle system to detect obstacles and avoid collisions. Each shuttle can carry 12 passengers and can operate for 14 hours on a battery charge. First Transit is also providing onsite personnel to provide maintenance for the AV passenger shuttles at a facility provided by EasyMile.

“Customer needs, safety, and performance are core to First Transit company values. There may be a day when autonomous vehicle transportation will be a fit for the people we serve in the Rochester area. The California pilot program with EasyMile is a good first step in assuring we, as a transit operator, are prepared to meet that customer need.”  – Jim Baldwin, First Transit’s Rochester General Manager

Rochester Public Transit (RPT) is the City of Rochester’s public transit system, operating buses and paratransit service across the city carrying over 1.7 million passenger each year. Our funding comes from the City of Rochester, the state and federal governments and fare revenues. Rochester Public Transit is committed to safety in transporting you, our riders. RPT is also committed to access and equity in employment and in the provision of transportation services.