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Driverless Van Tests Don't Pencil Out

While it might be easy to convince public officials to sell driverless technology as a flashy solution to mobility deficits—the math still doesn't justify the expense.
April 19, 2017, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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EasyMile, along with Capital Metro and RATP Dev, demonstrated the EZ10 electric driverless shuttle during the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival 2017 at the University of Texas in Austin.

"Add Arlington, Texas to your mental list of cities conducting local tests of driverless shuttles," according to an article by Greg Roberts.

"On March 28, the City Council of Arlington, Texas approved a six-month lease of two EZ10 driverless shuttles from the French startup EasyMile, with a six-month option to renew," adds Roberts. "The vehicles, which can transport up to a dozen people at a time, will operate on a fixed course between parking lots and venues in Arlington’s entertainment district."

The question posed by Roberts in light of this news, however, is whether such test programs are worth the cost. In Arlington's case, the city is paying $270,000 to lease the two vehicles for two months. If the city had simply paid for two Ford Transit passenger vans of similar size and paid drivers to occupy the vehicles, the price would have come out to about $113,000 over the course of six months. Roberts notes that the gap between the two systems would be narrowed if extended for a full year.

The point: driverless technology is not yet a low-cost option, much less a cost-saving solution for cities and regions, like Arlington, looking for a way to improve public transportation options.

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Published on Friday, April 14, 2017 in Eno Center for Transportation
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