The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), in partnership with Beep and funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), launched a three-month autonomous vehicle pilot in downtown St. Petersburg. The fare free all-electric shuttle, named AVA, short for Autonomous Vehicle Advantage, is the state’s first autonomous vehicle fleet launched by a transit agency in mixed traffic.
AVA will operate along Bayshore Drive Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. beginning on Nov. 25 until February 2021. The shuttle uses eight sensors on the outside of the vehicle providing a 360-degree view of the environment. An on-board shuttle attendant, or copilot, serves as an ambassador for the riders to learn more about the technology and oversee the passenger experience. Riders will be limited to one round trip.
“We are beyond excited for the community to try this all new experience with AVA,” said Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA. “Like an attraction at Disney World, we hope all who come to enjoy AVA leave with a better understanding of how technology can help enhance safety all while providing clean-energy solutions that could transform transportation.”
The functionality of the shuttle is enabled by a safe, pre-determined planned route. AVA is equipped with multiple onboard LiDAR sensors and GPS tracking to ensure the path is maintained during operation. The vehicle performance is monitored by an onboard shuttle specialist as well as Beep’s Global Command Center located in Orlando, Fla. The vehicles are 100-percent electric, cost less than $30 per month to charge, and react 10 times faster than a human can, while never getting distracted from the roadway.
Due to COVID-19, passengers can expect processes and procedures onboard that align with best practices and federal guidelines for ridesharing and transit, such as frequent cleaning procedures and a modified seating capacity. Riders will also be required to wear a seatbelt and use a face covering while on the shuttle.