State agencies evaluated the deployment and acceptance of fully-automated shuttle services at multiple sites in Utah.
The Utah Autonomous Shuttle Pilot, a collaboration between the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) provided passenger service at eight locations across Utah over a 17-month project period, allowing a total of 6,878 riders to experience the technology firsthand. The shuttle was a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 4 (High Driving Automation) vehicle that could operate on fixed, repeated routes. The vehicle had no steering wheel or pedal but was equipped with a handheld control unit for staff to use, if necessary. For the duration of this deployment, a designated staff member was present on board the shuttle whenever it was operating to monitor how it functioned and to intervene if required. Deployment of the shuttle began at Canyons Village, Utah, and was in service from May 20 to 23, 2019. A total of 151 riders experienced the shuttle. Another major deployment took place from June 13 to July 6, 2019 at Station Park (Mondays to Saturdays) with a total of 2,613 riders. Both deployments ran from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Deployment also took place in Salt Lake City from July 15 to August 2, 2019 with a total of 677 riders. The frequency of the shuttle service ranged from 8 to 20 minutes at an operating speed of 8 to 11.2 mi/h. Other deployment sites included University of Utah, Utah State Capitol, Mountain America Expo Center, and Dixie Convention Center.
The base cost of this deployment was $400,000 to lease a shuttle and operate it in Utah. This amount included the vendor’s full-time Utah deployment engineer and other management staff time, but do not include the value of the time that UDOT and UTA employees spent on the project. Although the total estimated cost was $987,000, this cost included public outreach and public trust research to meet project objectives. As indicated in this study, the true deployment costs would include the shuttle lease, signage and miscellaneous charges, operations and logistics, and a portion of the outreach, site planning, operations, and engineering support costs as seen in Table 1.
Table 1: Cost Breakdown of Utah Automated Shuttle
Approximate Actual Cost
Signage and Miscellaneous Charges
Operations and Logistics
Outreach, Site Planning, Operations, and Engineering Support
The study stated that many cost items involved in this project would not be needed for a longer-term deployment and estimated the capital and operational costs of a single shuttle. These estimates assumed that the automated shuttle no longer requires a host on board each vehicle at all times, though it is supported by a remote operator monitoring multiple shuttles:
- The total capital and operating cost was estimated to be approximately $400,000 for one automated shuttle running about 30 hours per week for the first year. Costs were expected to decline after the first year when only operational expenses applied.
- The biggest cost was reported as the purchase of the automated shuttle, approximately $230,000.
- Operational costs were reported as approximately $170,000 per year, consisting of $60,000 per shuttle mainly for a full vehicle maintenance contract and software licenses and $110,000 in fixed labor costs that could be spread across two to five shuttles.
- The cost for charging the automated shuttle was $2 per day, based on project results.
- The contract with the vendor included insurance for the shuttle, the shuttle deployment engineer, the property the shuttle operated on, and passengers.
- Unit future operating expenses were estimated and reported as follows. $22.61 per hour which compares to the current non-automated system at $41.97 (including operation, wage, and benefit expenses), $1.79 cost per mile of the automated shuttle, $2.31 for the fare per rider. It should be noted that these unit values did not factor in capital costs or one-time startup expenses and assumed no host on-board.
- It was reported that automated shuttles needed very little infrastructure changes to operate in a simple environment when there is a Host on board. Without a Host, more infrastructure changes would be needed, such as physically separating a lane or smoothing the roadway.