Stories by Paul Comfort

Expert Voices

Shared AV pilots are on the rise in U.S. cities

A man entering an Olli autonomous shuttle.
'Olli,' an autonomous shuttle, at the National Harbor in Maryland. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

One AV trend set to pick up speed in 2019 is universities, cities and transit agencies piloting autonomous shuttles and circulators, typically carrying 10–12 passengers, to provide first- and last-mile links to other transit options.

Why it matters: These programs will be a chance to test AVs in new situations and environments, shape public perception of AV technology, and assess needed infrastructure improvements.

Expert Voices

Public transit agencies turning to hackathons for innovation

computer programmers working on laptops at a table
Computer programmers at a hackathon in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Transportation agencies in San Antonio, Baltimore, Fairfax and the state of Delaware have hosted hackathons and open data challenges, as did the recent InnoTrans conference in Berlin. These are opportunities for programmers, coders and designers to turn their ideas into practical transportation solutions in the form of web and mobile apps, data visualizations and algorithms for improved transit performance.

The big picture: Transit systems across America have seen a steady decline in ridership over the past five years, with an average drop of 5% in bus ridership from 2016 to 2017. These hackathons are only one of the newest ways cities are approaching the modernization of their transportation offerings — in addition to connecting public transit with Uber and Lyft, hosting bike and scooter shares, and launching smart phone apps that plan and track public transit rides.

Expert Voices

Autonomous buses in Switzerland are getting a warm reception

Christian Amsler and Winfried Kretschmann sit inside an autonomously driven bus of the Schaffhausen public transport during a test ride.
Christian Amsler, government president of Schaffhausen, and Winfried Kretschmann, Premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg, inside one of the autonomous buses. Photo: Patrick Seeger via Getty Images

The Swiss state of Shauffhausen was the first in the world to incorporate an autonomous bus into regular route public transit in mixed traffic, a service that has transported over 12,000 passengers since it began in March. City and transit officials tasked a research team with conducting a public survey on the program's performance.

Why it matters: While the participants seem to have some concerns and unanswered questions about the transition to autonomous vehicles, the autonomous bus enjoyed high levels of approval. Public acceptance and support are key to the success of AVs in public transportation, and these results bode well for other cities looking to try autonomous buses in their transit systems.