Driverless shuttles will hit downtown Austin streets this week.
“As we're moving forward with all the technology and innovation we're seeing right now, we need to think for the next generation,” said CapMetro spokeswoman Mariette Hummel.
CapMetro said the future includes 15-person mini shuttles, which operate without a driver.
“I'll try it. It's a new world, you know,” said Dayann Pazmino who frequently uses public transportation in Austin.
“These autonomous vehicles are really great because they're these small pods almost and you're able to put them on streets where some of these bigger vehicles like buses, 40-foot buses, can't go,” Hummel said.
The autonomous shuttles hit Austin’s streets for the first time at midnight Wednesday. They will only go about one mile per hour during the mapping phase and no passengers will be allowed on them.
“Don't try to get on board, just stay away from it for now, and let us do the testing to make sure that it's safe and operable by the time we actually use it,” said Hummel.
While the shuttles are mapping out 3rd Street for the upcoming year-long pilot program, there will be rolling street closures between the Convention Center and Guadalupe.
Austin police will direct traffic and escort the shuttles during that time and CapMetro said there will be an operator on board throughout the entire 12-month pilot program.
“We actually want to ask people to be aware of this and to be safe, so don't run towards the vehicle, don't try and jump in front of it to see if it works,” Hummel said.
People that frequently use public transportation are cautiously optimistic about the idea.
“Most people would think it's kind of scary to just be in a car and not have a driver, but, if the technology is there and it's tested, maybe it's not too bad, and if it reduces the cost of public transportation or how people get places, then that might be a good thing,” said Pazmino.
CapMetro hopes the shuttles will gain popularity and cut down on transportation trouble in the Capital City.
“So, if we can get more people on our buses, our trains, and even these AV vehicles, that will help traffic,” Hummel said.
Next week, during phase two of testing, the shuttles will run at different times during the day so they learn to respond to different scenarios.
CapMetro said they will have staff present in the testing zone to answer any questions while the shuttles are on the road.