The city of Arlington, Texas, and Via are now offering Via Arlington customers a choice to be picked up in a self-driving vehicle for trips around Downtown and The University of Texas at Arlington.
The Arlington RAPID pilot program, available to riders through the Via app, integrates on-demand autonomous vehicles (AVs) into an existing public transportation service. A fleet of five self-driving vehicles, including a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, is available to book from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for destinations within the RAPID service area, which includes the Downtown Library, City Hall, UTA, and numerous restaurants, offices, and businesses. The city of Arlington is operating RAPID (Rideshare, Automation, and Payment Integration Demonstration) in partnership with Via, May Mobility, and UT Arlington through a grant provided by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
The goal of the Arlington RAPID project is to provide a blueprint for combining on-demand rideshare and autonomous technologies to develop efficient, safe, and accessible transportation for all riders. In addition to improving public transit options in Arlington, lessons learned from Arlington RAPID will be shared widely to help other communities throughout the nation seeking to combine rideshare and autonomous technologies.
Via’s technology will power booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment and identification, customer experience, and fleet management, in coordination with May Mobility’s expertise in AV technology. May Mobility is providing the fleet of five AVs, which comprises four hybrid electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles that can carry up to three passengers and one Polaris GEM fully electric vehicle that can carry one wheelchair passenger. While the vehicles are self-driving, a trained fleet attendant will be in the driver’s seat at all times to ensure safe operations and to provide customer service for riders.
Additionally, a number of health safety features will be present in the RAPID vehicles, including a partition between the attendant and passenger areas, daily deep cleaning, and mask requirements consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FTA regulations. The number of passengers in the vehicles at one time can also be limited to allow social distancing, consistent with the current approach on the City’s Via service.
Riders traveling to and from destinations in the RAPID service area will be able to book and pay for rides through the Via app or by calling Via’s customer service line. Via’s standard fares apply to rides taken on RAPID by the general public, with the exception of UTA students who can ride the RAPID service for free.
Researchers from UTA’s College of Engineering, College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs and the Center for Transportation Equity, Decisions, and Dollars are also contributing to the project. The research team will focus “on assessing and comparing rider perceptions before, during and after the RAPID project to examine potential gaps in existing and new services, recommend strategies to overcome potential challenges of the AV system, and remove adoption barriers for an enhanced ridership experience,” according to Sharareh Kermanshachi, principal investigator for the research team.