Jacksonville, US is preparing
Few people have ever ridden in an autonomous automobile, but most of us have at some point ridden in a fully-automated transit vehicle. ‘People movers’, as these grade-separated networks are known, are commonly found at airports, theme parks and a number of downtown districts. The Jacksonville Skyway, an extensive downtown people mover system which opened in 1989, carries more than 1 million people per year along a 2.5-mile, 8-station network
Unlike today’s autonomous vehicles which combine advanced sensors and image processing (so-called ‘machine vision’), these older systems simply followed fixed tracks or radio beacons. But as Jacksonville contemplates the future of its aging people mover (4 of 10 trains are out of service because replacement parts are no longer being made), and the need to expand its reach to connect to existing transit and under-served neighborhoods, the city’s transportation authority believes “[t]his can be achieved by utilizing investment in the existing elevated Skyway, expanding the area it serves, and employing autonomous transit technology.”
The Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) project, which is in early planning stages, calls for converting the existing elevated Skyway lines to a driverless shuttle guideway. This would allow for individual or virtually linked trains of vehicles to provide demand-responsive service. The JTA anticipates 50 percent reductions in construction costs for AV-based network extensions (75 percent where tracks can be run at surface level), and 25 percent reductions in operating costs). In February 2017, JTA’s board adopted the AV approach and greenlighted the next step of project development.
2017-12-20: Jacksonville Transport Authority begins two-year public trial of driverless shuttles in the Brooklyn neighborhood in preparation for eventual retirement of Skyway trains in four to five years. Link