Consulting firm AECOM has partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the city of White Bear Lake in the US to launch an automated shuttle pilot.
The Bear Tracks shuttle will run for one year on a 1.5-mile route in White Bear Lake city. The shuttle, which will be free to use, will connect area residents to several community facilities and businesses.
The project will incorporate key elements of MnDOT’s connected and automated vehicle (CAV) strategic plan, including enhanced mobility for persons with disabilities, better travel options for elderly communities, and more public awareness of automated vehicle technologies.
AECOM will serve as Bear Tracks’ prime contractor and AV technology expert, providing program management, planning services, automated vehicle (AV) technology design, procurement support, program evaluation, and technical services. An academic partnership will offer students first-hand experience with CAVs and aid in workforce development.
Lessons learned during the pilot will assist MnDOT in advancing and replicating AV paratransit systems throughout the state. The concept will also leverage concurrent efforts underway by the AECOM-led Automated Bus Consortium involving a larger coordinated national effort to procure and test full-size, full-speed AV buses.
The Bear Tracks pilot will employ a Navya Autonom Shuttle, a highly automated, 11 passenger, low-speed shuttle that is 100% electric and includes a mobility ramp and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance features. The shuttle will have a safety driver, who will act as an onboard attendant, and includes a computer, GPS technology, and multiple sensors to operate within the predetermined route.
Newtrax will serve as the shuttle operations manager, leveraging its extensive experience providing daily transportation services for adults with disabilities in the area. Additional participating key partners include Ramsey County, University of Minnesota, White Bear Lake Area Schools, Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence, White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce, and the local YMCA.
“We’re incredibly proud to partner with MnDOT and White Bear Lake to launch this ground-breaking project, which not only advances the operation of emerging automation technologies in variable weather conditions but uniquely integrates transit accessibility and equity as a main focus,” said Daryl Taavola, vice president with AECOM’s US West transportation business. “This pilot will serve as a tangible example that helps the public understand and interact with the benefits of these vehicles while providing the community with a free, safe, and sustainable transportation option.”
“The Bear Tracks autonomous shuttle provides a safe transportation option for White Bear Lake community members, particularly some of our more vulnerable residents,” added MnDOT commissioner Nancy Daubenberger. “The demonstration project also provides invaluable information that can move Minnesota forward in its goal of safe, equitable transportation for all in our state.”
Images: AECOM and Adobe Stock