Tampa launches first driverless shuttle as part of pilot project

A driverless shuttle, which operates at a maximum speed of 15 mph, began ferrying people in downtown Tampa in October. 

The one-year pilot project, by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), is the first, fully electric automated vehicle pilot in the Tampa Bay region funded by the Florida Department of Transportation. 

An autonomous shuttle, which operates at a maximum speed of 15 mph, began ferrying people in downtown Tampa in October.  (Courtesy HART)

Beep, an Orlando-based autonomous shuttle service provider, is partnering with HART to bring its self-driving shuttle to the Marion Street transitway in downtown Tampa. 

Driverless Shuttle Offering Connections

The free shuttle offers first mile, last mile connection between the TECO Line Streetcar and the Marion Transit Center along North Marion Street.

“HART is proud to be the regional leader in a new era of transportation innovation in Tampa Bay. HART SMART (Smart Mobility Alongside Regional Transit) AV is a first mile, last mile connection from the TECO Line Streetcar in Ybor City to our bus system in northern downtown Tampa. The shuttle is another option for our riders to get to the places that enhance their lives,” said HART Deputy Chief of Transportation Ruthie Reyes Burckard, in a statement.

A 100% electric driverless shuttle

The driverless shuttle is 100% electric and costs less than $30 per month to charge. HART SMART AV operates without a steering wheel. As well, it uses a pre-programmed, fixed route with a combination of localization techniques, involving state-of-the-art sensor technology. 

The shuttle uses eight sensors on the outside of the vehicle providing a 360-degree view of the environment. In addition, an on-board shuttle attendant serves as an ambassador for the riders to learn more about the technology. The attendant oversees the high-quality passenger experience. 

Currently, the route includes four stops at Marion Transit Center’s Bay F, Kennedy Boulevard, Washington Street and Whiting Street. Eventually, there will be an option for a future stop at Tampa City Hall.

“The world is getting more automated, shared, and electric. HART announcing this partnership with BEEP shows our region’s continued focus on new technologies that will fundamentally reshape our cities,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

Funded by FDOT

The HART Board of Directors approved the pilot program for at least one year of operation with an option to continue the program for a second year. The project is fully funded by the FDOT with no required match on behalf of HART.

“HART’s new autonomous vehicle project is yet another feather in Tampa’s cap as we invest in our multi- modal mobility future while providing clean-energy solutions for transit that will help transform Tampa’s tomorrow,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

Investments in safer, sustainable, and innovative transportation solutions are more important now than ever to ensure transit agencies like HART can adapt to evolving passenger expectations and needs, according to Beep CEO Joe Moye.

“The HART SMART AV project is a perfect example of how the most advanced autonomous platforms and services can improve safety, increase access, and enhance the rider experience for all by providing much needed first-mile, last-mile connections to the transit hub and streetcar network,” Moye said.

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