It seems like just last week that Las Vegas was the home of the biggest technology show in the world. If we’re being completely honest it was just barely over a week ago, but close enough. First shown off at the big show itself, Las Vegas has started a trial run for a driverless electric shuttle for its entertainment district.
Before anybody gets too excited, the limited trial is being held off of the strip. Passengers can press special buttons along a specific patch of the Fremont Street east entertainment district to request a pickup. The shuttle, named Arma, was created by Navya, a French company specializing in autonomous vehicles. Navya already has similar electric shuttles in use in their home country as well as Australia and Switzerland. This is the company’s first test on a public street in the United States. You can get a look at the vehicle in motion in Navya’s Arma launch video below.
There are a few caveats to the “wow” factor in all of this. The Arma vehicle is currently running in its own dedicated lane that has been blocked off to allow it to avoid traffic signals. Plans are in motion to install transmitters at intersections to relay red or green light status to the shuttles in the future. The vehicle stays in its lane using GPS, curb sensors, and other technologies, meaning it does not require lane lines to go where it needs to go.
The vehicle itself can hold twelve passengers and has a range of about 90 miles before it needs to return for a 5-8 hour recharge. Arma is set to travel at 15mph during its test. Company officials have said that the vehicle can go as high as 25mph. Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman was one of the first public servants to catch a ride on Arma and said it was quite comfortable.
Las Vegas is definitely interested in adding more autonomous vehicles, either by Navya or other companies. If implemented full time, Arma would have an operating cost of approximately $10,000 per year. Compared to the roughly $1 million/year that a bus and its driver would cost the city, these vehicles could be an incredible bargain. Advertising both on the sides of the vehicles as well as inside the shuttle and at shuttle stops could keep fares cheap or possibly even free for riders.
Would you like your next trip to Sin City to involve an automated electric shuttle? Tell us what you think in the comment section below or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.Source: Associated Press