Saturday, November 18, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa will get a look at its driverless downtown shuttle, launching in January

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Downtown’s newest way to get around is ready for its close-up.

The P-1 electric shuttle, an autonomous vehicle without a human driver, will be on display at the Fifth Annual Florida Automated Vehicles Summit, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. The shuttle begins serving the public for free on a trial basis in January.

The P-1 has seats for 14 people plus standing room for six and will run 0.6 miles along Marion Street in eastern downtown from the Marion Transit Center south to Whiting Street and back.

Manufacturer Coast Autonomous, based in Pasadena, Calif., loaded up the P-1 with information about its environment by recording a three-dimensional map of all possible Marion Street pathways. Sensors will enable the P-1 to get smarter over time, detecting and reacting to pedestrians and other vehicles in a 360-degree range.

The vehicle has never been put into public use before.

It won’t cover much ground at first, but Coast managing director Adrian Sussman said it will fill a gap in transit for people working in a section of downtown.

"Every transit agency in the country has the same issue of trying to convince commuters to leave their cars at home and take public transportation," Sussman said. "But the biggest hurdle to this is the first mile from your house to the bus stop and the last mile from your office to the bus."

Autonomous vehicle technology aims to make commuting more accessible, convenient and environmentally friendly by reducing emissions and traffic and making it easier for those who cannot drive to retain their independence.

Tampa has some experience with autonomous shuttles already. In 2015, the Museum of Science and Industry conducted a yearlong electric shuttle pilot program that chief operating officer Rob Lamke called "very popular and relatively problem-free."

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority will operate the downtown shuttle and funding comes from the Florida Department of Transportation.

On its website, HART says Tampa would be the first city in the country to integrate driverless cars into daily public transportation. But it appears that distinction actually belongs to the city of Las Vegas, which launched a pilot program Wednesday using a different vehicle on a loop that is also 0.6 miles.

The Las Vegas shuttle ran into trouble on its first day: A delivery truck backing into an alleyway hit the front bumper of the shuttle while it was carrying eight passengers. No one was hurt and the truck driver was cited for illegal backing, said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Laura Meltzer.

"The shuttle did what it was supposed to do — it sensed the truck and stopped," Jace Radke, city of Las Vegas spokesman, told the Tampa Bay Times. "The ironic part is that if the truck had been autonomous and equipped with sensors, the accident wouldn’t have happened at all."

It may take some persuading to get Tampa commuters on board.

"People behind the wheel are already nuts," said Andy Hornsby, 42, who rides the bus every day to his job downtown at Moxie’s Cafe. "You’re going to put me in a car with nobody driving? I don’t think so."

University of South Florida student Jen Fisher, 25, who recently began taking the bus to her three part-time jobs, said she’s reluctant.

"I know it’s supposed to be the newest technology, and I would try it if it was a direct link to my job, but it doesn’t make me very comfortable," she said.

Sussman said anyone concerned about safety should note that the shuttle will never exceed 25 mph, cannot become distracted like a person can and will automatically stop if it has any doubts about how to proceed. A report by Coast Autonomous said 94 percent of vehicle accidents are caused by human error.

A human conductor will monitor the vehicle and can interact with people onboard through a touch screen and microphone.

"Look at it like an elevator that runs along a street or between buildings rather than up and down inside," Sussman said. "Elevators had a human operator at first, too."

Contact Libby Baldwin at [email protected] Follow
@LibBaldwin

Comments
Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Greg Auman has a final preview of Sunday’s Bucs-Dolphins game in Miami in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.He talks about key matchups to watch for, from perhaps the NFL’s best slot receiver in Jarvis Landry, to Miami’s vulnerabilities at right tackl...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Possible wrong-way crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday

TAMPA — A multi-vehicle crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday may have been caused by a driver traveling in the wrong direction, Tampa police said.The crash occurred in the eastbound lanes closer to the Tampa side of the causeway, near ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Region football: Clearwater Central Catholic 37, Calvary Christian 10

CLEARWATER — The ice bath ensued for Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey after the Marauders’ 37-10 victory over Calvary Christian in Friday’s Class 3A region final. The win placed the Marauders (11-0) in their fifth state tournament since...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

MELBOURNE — With 1 yard separating Plant from an incredible come-from-behind victory, or a devastating defeat, it all came down to a matter of trust.And for Panthers coach Robert Weiner, there was no one he would put more faith in to get that 1 yard ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

SEFFNER — Hillsborough conquered one nemesis with last week’s win over Class 6A defending state finalist Lake Gibson, the team that knocked the Terriers out of the playoffs in the first round a year ago.But there was an even bigger stumbling block to...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Region football: Ocala Vanguard 35, Mitchell 31

NEW PORT RICHEY — The start wasn’t quite befitting of a playoff game between undefeated teams, but the end of Friday’s war between Ocala Vanguard and Mitchell certainly was.Like last year’s Class 6A regional semifinal, the Mustangs held a three-point...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

ZEPHYRHILLS — For Zephyrhills, Friday night’s Class 5A region semifinal against Green Cove Springs Clay was doomed by 12 bad minutes. The Bulldogs led by four points at halftime but allowed 28 unanswered points in the third quarter and were not able ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood came into Friday’s playoff game knowing its defense had to help control field position against Jesuit. The Spartans (9-1) left Friday’s game with a ticket to Immokalee for a region final — and six Tigers (6-5) turnovers en r...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Region football: Tampa Bay Tech 42, Palmetto 26

TAMPA — Another Friday night, another offensive explosion.Tampa Bay Tech’s offense continued its torrid pace and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. accounted for five total touchdowns as the Titans rolled past Palmetto 42-26 in a Class 7A, Region 3 semifi...
Updated: 10 hours ago