Capital Metro offers dreams of driverless shuttles in SXSW demo


Highlights

$250,000 pod-like shuttle pilots two-stop loop around a UT parking lot.

Capital Metro says it currently has no plans to purchase French-made electric vehicle.

A glimpse of the future slowly rolled around a University of Texas parking lot Thursday afternoon, making almost no noise as it completed its loop.

The oddly proportioned, 13-foot long, 10-foot tall, battery powered, driverless pod-bus-shuttle-thing could be the key to solving Capital Metro’s long-standing struggle to better link sprawling car-friendly, suburban-style neighborhoods to its existing service along transit corridors. Someday.

“It’s something that’s in the future, it’s not something that’s happening now,” Capital Metro spokeswoman Mariette Hummel said. “It’s just a way to research what we could be doing to connect people who live in areas that don’t have transit to our services.”

The transit authority teamed up with UT, contractor RAPT Dev and Easy Mile, the shuttle’s manufacturer, to put on the demonstration during South by Southwest.

Priced at an estimated $250,000, the pod-like EZ10 shuttle navigated a simple loop around a parking lot near the LBJ Presidential Library, guided by satellite positioning and a laser system so accurate that an engineer said it would keep within an inch of its programmed path. There were two stops and no planned obstacles in the way.

It had a second laser-based system designed to keep an eye out and detect if anything managed to get in its way: Two young boys took to running in front of the bus to test the system and see if it would stop; it did.

The inside of the French-built vehicle felt more a terminal-linking airport tram than a city bus: There were three seats on each end of the shuttle, and space for another six people to stand in the middle.

While these shuttle pods are operating or being tested in Australia, France, Japan, Singapore and a few other places, Capital Metro currently has no plans to buy any.

“Austin is always at the forefront of technology, or tries to be; and Cap Metro likes to be as well,” Hummel said. “It’s something to look forward to.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Trial reset for man accused of killing Hutto police sergeant in 2015
Trial reset for man accused of killing Hutto police sergeant in 2015

The trial for a man accused of killing a Hutto police sergeant in 2015 by running him over with the sergeant’s patrol car has been reset to Nov. 6, according to a court docket. The trial for Colby Williamson, 28, was originally was set to begin Monday with jury selection. It was reset because of a family emergency, according to the docket, which...
HAPPENING TODAY: Dawnna Dukes’ attorneys want to withdraw from case
HAPPENING TODAY: Dawnna Dukes’ attorneys want to withdraw from case

Attorneys for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes will request to withdraw from her public corruption case at a hearing on Monday afternoon in Travis County state district court. The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Two of her three lawyers, Houston’s Dane Ball and Shaun Clarke, filed a motion three weeks ago to withdraw from the case, saying they have been...
LIVE COVERAGE: Solar eclipse watch parties in Austin, Eanes schools
LIVE COVERAGE: Solar eclipse watch parties in Austin, Eanes schools

Students will have a memorable first day at school today. Campuses throughout Central Texas are hosting live watch parties of the solar eclipse. In the Austin district, Burnet Middle School will have a school-wide watch party. Students will learn about the eclipse during class, then break outside the watch the eclipse, expected to peak at 1:10 p.m...
Police: Jimmy John’s delivery driver added tips to 32 bills
Police: Jimmy John’s delivery driver added tips to 32 bills

A Jimmy John’s sandwich delivery driver in Georgetown faces up to 10 years in prison after police discovered she added unauthorized tips to 32 credit card bills, according to an arrest affidavit. Katelyn Naomi Hetzler, 24, of Georgetown, was charged with credit card or debit card abuse of the elderly, a third-degree felony. The charge is based...
Mother arrested after 16-month-old overdoses, authorities say
Mother arrested after 16-month-old overdoses, authorities say

An Indiana mother is facing charges after authorities said her 16-month-old son overdosed on opiates and had to be revived with naloxone, according to multiple reports. Daisha Clark, 26, was arrested last week after her cousin took her son to Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, The Star Press reported. She initially tried to talk her cousin out of the...
More Stories