The city of Arlington, Texas has partnered with the University of Texas at Arlington, Via, and May Mobility to create an on-demand autonomous transit pilot program called Arlington RAPID – Rideshare, Automation and Payment Integration Demonstration. The autonomous shuttle will be used for trips around downtown and on the campus of UT Arlington. The one-year pilot has been funded through the Federal Transit Administration with a $1.7 million US grant.
“We believe it’s the first time autonomous, on-demand vehicles are operating on an existing public transportation service in the U.S.,” Ann Foss, city planner in Arlington’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, said.
May Mobility is providing the fleet of five autonomous vehicles – four hybrid electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles that can carry up to three passengers and one Polaris GEM fully electric vehicle that can carry one wheelchair passenger. Emergency drivers will be on board. The shuttles will be available to book – using the Via app – from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for destinations within the RAPID service area. During the pandemic, each shuttle will only carry a maximum of two passengers and there are partitions between the attendant and passenger areas, daily deep cleaning, and mask requirements consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FTA regulations.
Via’s standard fares apply to rides taken on RAPID by the general public, but students at the University of Texas at Arlington will be able to ride for free. The city is currently working with the university’s College of Engineering, College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs, and the Center for Transportation Equity, Decisions and Dollars to design surveys that will assess how both riders and non-riders perceive the autonomous vehicles. The pilot program used information garnered from focus groups organized by university researchers last fall which sought to understand the needs of riders.
“The city of Arlington continues to be at the forefront of transit innovation, building on the launch of one of the nation’s first micro-transit systems with a self-driving vehicle platform that is fully integrated into the public transit network,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via, in a statement. “We are proud to expand Via’s long-term relationship with the City as we offer residents an exciting new way to use public transportation.”