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Driver-less shuttle set to make debut in Utah soon

SALT LAKE CITY – Who says you need a driver?  The Utah Department of Transportation and UTA are planning to let the public use a driver-less shuttle in the next couple of months.

These types of shuttles and buses have been on UDOT’s radar for a while, but now, it’s more of a viable option.

“The technology is getting a lot more accessible and a lot more inexpensive,” says Lisa Miller with UDOT.

The shuttles are made by EasyMile, and they would hold up to 15 people at a time.  Miller says there will be an employee on the shuttle, who they’re calling an ambassador, who will be able to step in if an emergency arises.

How much does this cost?

“Right now, we have about $600 thousand dedicated for this project and a majority of that goes to the rental of the shuttle as well as the person, the ambassador, that’s going to be with the shuttle,” Miller says.

So far, neither UDOT nor UTA has decided exactly where this shuttle would go.  Carl Arky with UTA says they’re still in negotiations with companies across the Wasatch Front to find places where the shuttle could stay when it isn’t in use.

“Universities would make sense, other business parks and hospitals.  There are a lot of places like that,” Arky says.

The shuttle would not be allowed to go on public roads or freeways since it travels so slow.  They have a top speed of 15 miles an hour.  Arky hopes public feedback and shuttle data can help them determine the best route.

“We look at gaps in the community where maybe we can get somebody to a train station but we can’t get them to that final destination.  So, what are our other solutions that help people complete that trip?” he adds.

They plan to unveil the shuttle during the legislative session and UTA wants to let the public ride it in March.