First responders, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) crews, fire fighters and law enforcement officials in the Jacksonville area of Florida are more prepared for the future of public transportation after completing an emergency training program with autonomous vehicles (AVs).
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), along with Florida-based autonomous mobility services company Beep, First Transit, and French AV manufacturer Navya, hosted a day-long training session at the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) campus, focusing on the latest AV technology and how first responders should address emergency situations involving self-driving vehicles. Participants from local and regional agencies received hands-on operational training and learned how to respond to scenarios involving potential hazards, passenger safety, immobilization and other incidents.
The training comes as the JTA prepares Downtown Jacksonville and the surrounding neighborhoods for the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) program, anchored by a fleet of AVs. The JTA established the AV Test and Learn Track in 2017, and since then, the Authority has worked with AV manufactures like Navya to test, develop and prepare the technology for widespread public use. Along with its partners at community-owned utilities company JEA, North Florida TPO, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the City of Jacksonville, the JTA is currently developing Phase One of the U2C, called the Bay Street Innovation Corridor.
The first leg will feature a fleet of 15 AVs vehicles that will traverse a 3 miles (4.8km) long loop from Hogan Street in Downtown Jacksonville to the city’s Sports and Entertainment Complex. The Bay Street Innovation Corridor also will link AVs to an extensive array of smart sensors, traffic signals and digital traffic systems to increase mobility and to enhance the pedestrian experience in Downtown Jacksonville.
Beep has an exclusive dealer arrangement with Navya for the state of Florida, and the AV-maker’s AUTONOM electric shuttle underpins its services. The training is one of Beep’s services and part of its mission to enable innovators such as the JTA to advance their autonomous technology services in a way that is pragmatic and practical, with a rigorous focus on public safety and security.
“It is extremely important to our mission that we continue to stay ahead of advancements in equipment and technology,” said Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s (JFRD) interim chief, Keith Powers. “Throughout our history, we have always trained on new technologies before they are implemented, so we were happy to train with these autonomous vehicles before they hit the street.”
The JTA’s CEO, Nathaniel Ford Sr, commented, “As we continue developing autonomous vehicle services as part of the Ultimate Urban Circulator program in Jacksonville, it’s crucial that our law enforcement and fire and rescue partners familiarize themselves with this technology, so they are prepared to encounter them under any circumstances.”
Joe Moye, Beep’s CEO, noted, “We are very excited to support the mission of the JFRD and offer training to this most critical audience. This training enables first responders to become familiar with and knowledgeable about these vehicles so that they can confidently interact with them.”