The Regional Transportation District (RTD) launched a first-of-its-kind pilot project in Colorado: a first-, last-mile connection to a rail station using a driverless shuttle. As described on the RTD’s website, this project is a partnership between various stakeholders that introduces EasyMile’s autonomous vehicle demonstration on a public roadway.
The project goal is to assess the reliability and availability of an autonomous vehicle shuttle service and its applicability to a transit application. Specifically, the project objectives are as follows:
- Introduce autonomous vehicle technology safely on a public roadway in the Denver metro area
- Provide additional connectivity between station and businesses and residential areas
- Explore first-, last-mile solutions for future growth throughout the district
- Test autonomous vehicle technology in a transit setting.
Started in January of 2019, the shuttle has been running on weekdays from 10 AM to 6 PM. While ridership is not one of the goals of the project, many passengers and residents have come by to take a ride.
Since deployment, the EasyMile and RTD project team leads reflected on its many lessons learned; these are outlined below:
- Stakeholder alignment is key. Involve all of the potential stakeholders from the very beginning; provide a detailed introduction to the EasyMile autonomous vehicle shuttle technology and deployment process; and have detailed discussions around each organization’s goals, champions, critics, and concerns. These all support a project running smoothly.
- Regulatory processes take time. Involve the regulatory partners early in the project and confirm the key steps from the onset. Many of the steps were necessary, and a full understanding of the regulatory processes and steps required from the beginning is key to keep to the schedule.
- Proactive marketing and communications are vital. A dedicated marketing and communications steering committee with appropriate representation helps identify ideas, key dates, and needs. Meetings should start early enough so that all stakeholders are well aware of the project and developing autonomous shuttle technology. Communication between this committee and the Project Team is key to ensure all activities are aligned.
- Budget for the project appropriately. Account and identify all project costs at the onset of the project.
- Identify metrics that address each stakeholder’s goals. Establish key metrics that encompass goals of every stakeholder in order to objectively assess the project’s success.