Require Consistent Sharing of Metadata and an Inventory of Data Systems by Automated Vehicle Operators to Enable Productive Data Control and Reporting Practices.

Lessons Summarized from the Little Roady Automated Microtransit Pilot Along a 12-Stop, 5.3-Mile Loop Corridor.

Date Posted

A Rhode Trip: Lessons for the Future of Mobility From the Little Roady Autonomous Microtransit Pilot

Summary Information

Innovations and new technologies such as connected and Automated Vehicles (AV), offer a great potential to benefit the transportation systems as well as help grow public-private institutional partnerships. The Little Roady AV shuttle pilot implemented by the Rhode Island DOT, a free daily shuttle service, operated from May 2019 through June 2020 along a 12-stop, 5.3-mile loop along the Woonasquatucket Corridor in Rhode Island. The main goal of this pilot study was to safely introduce and test AV technology in Rhode Island, provide first/last mile transportation linkages, create economic opportunities, accelerate innovation, and support and evaluate public user experiences related to the project. Given this, this study conducted a national survey with a sample size of 1,000 participants, a regional survey with a sample size of 500, and a baseline and ongoing pilot rider and non-rider user survey with 1,089 participants. In addition, field observations were conducted at shuttle stops with 349 users and in shuttles with 434 users. Moreover, interviews were carried out with riders, non-riders, neighborhood stakeholders, fleet attendants and supervisors, making up a sample size of 64 participants in total. Finally, this study utilized the Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface (RESTful API) shuttle service operational data to understand the operation and performance of the pilot.

  • Require consistent sharing of metadata and an inventory of data systems and sources collected or maintained by AV operators. Such an effort would facilitate educating the public, government officials, and policymakers, as well as enable public partner with desired data access and an appropriate level of operational control with industry stakeholders, especially about data availability and privacy issues.
  • Map data sources to clearly defined research questions and use cases. This would ensure that correct data and cleaning methodologies are determined by the AV companies.
  • Seek clarity surrounding possible AV disengagement conditions and reporting of relevant data afterwards. Having an agreement in place early on ensures a proper level of disengagement granularity and specifics of the conditions that may warrant AV disengagements.
  • Utilize already existing data standards at the time of service launch. Harnessing the power of existing data standards such as General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) would make the AV service more easily discoverable to riders via mobility applications (apps) as soon as the service launches.
  • Consider being transparent with AV data standards and operations. This new and not yet existing concept of transparency and uniformity would make it possible for multiple AV operators to collaborate on the provision of the same service and be evaluated in a consistent way.
  • Scrutinize any decisions related to programming and mathematical modeling behind the scenes of the AV technology. Proper audits, regulations and academic support are crucial where accuracy of any decisions regarding the AV algorithms could mean life or death.
  • Keep up with the changing roles of the transit workforce and fleet attendants in the context of an increasingly automated future. As driverless shuttle technology advances, AV operators may not need attendants on all vehicles at all times. Instead, a floating pool of attendants could spot-check busy vehicles, route segments, and stops, offering assistance as needed. Other attendants may be reallocated and transitioned to other areas of AV operations.
  • Consider route integration with existing alternative or microtransit modes. This kind of integration with other modes such as bike shares, scooters, ferries, and aligning payment systems with these modes would streamline rider experience, and promote mode shift.
  • Make better use of AV depots through automated parking. This is very important for the AV operators to be able to arrange the vehicles efficiently in the depots and help reduce costs.