autonomous vehicle
VTA Serving as a Model for Accessible Autonomous Vehicle Use
Stacey Hendler Ross

Verge Conference 2019 is focused on Carbon pollution, leveraging technologies for a circular economy, decarbonizing the energy system, and supporting the move to zero emissions transportation. VTA has similar vision and goals regarding sustainability and moving to a zero emission transit system. Conference speakers included Governor Newsom, and others, all striving for a clean energy future.

I spoke at the “Lessons Learned from Early Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Projects” session.  The session focused on the first autonomous vehicle projects — both slow-moving shuttles on campuses, at hospitals and more widely deployed robotaxis — and companies and city leaders are beginning to learn valuable lessons from these early programs. We explained the most important takeaways that organizations need to know as they investigate autonomous vehicle technology.

VTA is working with industry partners such as Prospect SV, Mineta Transportation Institute, Veterans Administration, Local Motors, IBM and others to develop an Accessible Autonomous Vehicle (AAV) solution. The Accessible Automated Vehicle Pilot Project has the goal to test accessible automated vehicle technologies for a specialized transportation service in a very limited geographic area for a limited demographic population, namely the Palo Alto VA Hospital's staff, visitors and clinic patients.

The project would allow for a collaborative assessment of accessible automated vehicle technologies with new unconventional business processes to provide a new public transit solution.  This pilot project would allow for the testing of disruptive technologies such as video analytics, artificial intelligence, connected vehicle/autonomous vehicles, and zero emission propulsion. Evaluating new business models would include those that support customers with disabilities and elderly customers while also integrating first- and last-mile customer solutions.

Getting an AV provider, and multiple Human to Machine Interface (HMI) providers to collaborate in building the first AAV Smart Automated Electric Vehicle has been a challenge.  Most AV research and AV development centers are not ready to deal with the passenger issues in a robotaxis setting, and companies are slow or reluctant to share intellectual property (IP).  VTA is taking the first steps around providing the disabled and elderly community a superior product and business model in the future with very minimal impact to the paratransit, first and last mile work force.

Stay tuned as we continue to work to get this experiement off the ground.

This article was contributed by VTA Chief Innovation/Technology Officer Gary Miskell


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