First in North Texas: Frisco to Launch Public Driverless Car Transportation in July
Last year, Texas became one of 10 states across the nation where the U.S. Department of Transportation granted approval for companies to test automated technology in vehicles. Though Arlington’s Milo pilot program is presently testing driverless shuttles in the city’s entertainment district, the battery operated autonomous shuttles navigate along an off-street path at 10 to 12 miles-per-hour. Frisco’s pilot program with California-based Drive.ai will be the first driverless service available on public roads.
"Frisco is making a statement that we're going to lead in innovation," Mayor Jeff Cheney told a crowd that gathered for a Driver.ai demonstration, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Throughout the six-month program, the service will be free to the 10,000 employees in offices at Hall Park. While the initial fixed route is slightly less than a mile from Hall Park to shops and restaurants at The Star in Frisco—headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys—the driverless trip is more convenient than walking or hassling with a car.
Since testing is a combination of exposing vehicles to different traffic conditions and gaining passenger trust, the first stage of the program includes a human in the driver’s seat who can immediately take the wheel if a problem occurs. In the second stage, the human sits in the passenger seat and casually answers any questions passengers may have, and the final stage allows artificial intelligence to drive solo with the aid of a remote operator if necessary.
Passengers can schedule rides via a smartphone app.
Though Drive.ai is funding the program, it’s made possible by public and private partnerships among members of the recently organized Frisco Transportation Management Association, which includes Drive.ai, the Denton County Transportation Authority, the City of Frisco, Hall Park, The Star in Frisco, and Frisco Station.
James Cline, president of the Denton County Transportation Authority, told the Dallas Morning News that he believes self-driving vehicles have a place in public transportation and mobility. Whether that role is transporting people on that last mile from a bus stop to their house or replacing buses entirely remains to be seen.
From driverless buses to autonomous cars and trucks, the potential for vehicles driven by artificial intelligence is endless. In progressive metro areas like North Texas, the availability of driverless public transportation could be a bargaining tool for attracting more businesses and skilled employees. Since driver error causes traffic accidents, driverless vehicles may prove to be the safest transportation option.
“These autonomous vehicles never look at their phone; they never take a drink; and they're always awake," Cline said in the Dallas Morning News report.