Brooklyn Navy Yard Gets Driverless Shuttle Service

Brooklyn Navy Yard Gets Driverless Shuttle Service

An autonomous vehicle shuttle service is laying claim to be New York’s first commercial AV program albeit one restricted to private roads.

Boston’s Optimus Ride said its shuttles would begin transporting workers, residents and NYC Ferry passengers around the Brooklyn Navy Yard later this year. The company also announced plans to operate driverless services at Paradise Valley Estates, a gated retirement community in Fairfield, California.

The company is using the Brooklyn program to trial its systems within a “defined, geo-fenced area” and, if successful, it will probably attempt to gain permission for a pilot on public roads in New York City. However, it will have to contend with the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio who has been reported as having grave concerns about testing the technology on some of the world’s busiest city streets.

In April 2017, a New York state budget bill approved AV tests and demonstrations on public highways but only for the following year, and with human back-up drivers present at all times. The state’s police force and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had to approve all such trials. Audi trialed an autonomous A7 in Albany in June 2017 but the trial had to be overseen by a police presence paid for by the automaker.

General Motor’s Cruise Automation unit planned to trial a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolts in Lower Manhattan in early 2018 but the bill expired in April before the plan’s implementation. A 1971 New York state law requiring drivers to keep one hand on the wheel at all times remains in force.

Optimus Ride CEO Ryan Chin said: “We’re pleased to be the first company to launch a self-driving vehicle program in the state of New York”. However, a DMV spokesperson warned: “If Optimus Ride intends to operate on public roadways, they would need DMV approval.”

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