Transdev, a multimodal mobility solutions company, together with development group Kitson & Partners, announced the opening of the first autonomous shuttle network in North America, scheduled to begin operations in November 2017.
Babcock Ranch, a new town under construction in Southwest Fla., will start running multiple Transdev-operated autonomous shuttles, with the long-range goal of working with Transdev to bring on-demand, mobility as a service options to nearly 50,000 residents.
Babcock Ranch will serve as a living laboratory on the development of the mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platform, with car-sharing, bike-sharing, autonomous shuttles and pods, and charter transit all planned for future phases of the mobility plan.
“This is a game changer. It’s everything a transit company could hope for, basically starting with a blank canvas and creating a network — from scratch — and managing the mobility ecosystem with all of the innovative tools we’ve developed,” said Dick Alexander, executive VP, Business Development, for Transdev. “As the community grows, the mobility choices will grow with it. Notably, we will have unprecedented access to MaaS data that will help shape how this vital service is implemented in other cities and communities across the country and world.”
More than 20,000 people attended a soft opening for Babcock Ranch in March, reflecting the national enthusiasm for the innovative new town with an unprecedented commitment to sustainability: Babcock Ranch is the first completely solar-powered new town in the country.
Residents will start moving into homes by the end of the year, with original plans to deploy the autonomous shuttle network to run in a loop to model homes before true connected trips to local destinations begin. The 18,000-acre Babcock Ranch will bring the characteristics and economics of a small city, with a total of 19,500 housing units and six million square feet of commercial space in bikeable, walkable neighborhoods in a town that sets aside 50% of its footprint for public green space and lakes. The first businesses in the downtown district, built around a 13-acre waterfront park, opened earlier this year.
“We recognize that progress comes in increments,” said Syd Kitson, chairman/CEO of Kitson & Partners. “Americans are not going to go from one car for every driver to no cars for every household overnight. We start by making cars just one of many options for getting around town. When people can walk, bike, catch a shuttle, use their handheld device to summon an on-demand autonomous vehicle, or utilize a shared vehicle service for trips off-site, they will quickly realize they don’t really need their own car.”
For Transdev, the announcement is the culmination of rapid autonomous vehicle innovation backed by key industry partnerships that have helped the company emerge as an early leader in all aspects of autonomous operations. A partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance was agreed to earlier this year. Transdev is also partnering with Delphi on two open-road autonomous networks in Normandy and the Parisian suburbs of France.
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