ORLANDO, Fla. - The region’s first autonomous shuttles hit the road Wednesday in Lake Nona, courtesy of mobility solutions provider "Beep."
The autonomous shuttles, manufactured by NAVYA, travel along Tavistock Lakes Boulevard between Lake Nona Town Center and Laureate Park Village Center near the Canvas restaurant.
Beep is temporarily offering the shuttle service for free to and from the locations between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. A shuttle leaves each stop every 10 to 15 minutes and can carry up to 10 people at a time.
The shuttles share the road with other vehicles along Tavistock Lakes Boulevard, which is a 25 mph road. Beep’s co-founder, Kevin Reid, said the shuttles travel at 15 mph.
“We will probably have cars queue up behind us on this one little stretch,” said Reid. “We’re not anticipating this is going to a major problem. So far, the community has been pretty good about that.”
Wednesday’s launch of the driverless shuttle comes several months after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that allows autonomous vehicles to be on the road without an operator onboard. Reid said his vehicles will always have someone onboard and able to change course if needed.
“We’re also going to make sure those safety attendants are there to ensure anytime we are crossing the streets that someone’s mind is going to be looking out at that as well,” said Reid.
Mayor Buddy Dyer and Mayor Jerry Demings celebrated the launch of the new service in Central Florida.
"Over the last several years, we have worked with our public and private partners to establish Orlando as a 'future-ready' city," said Dyer.
Both mayors said the new technology paves the way for more future autonomous shuttles in other parts of Orlando and Orange County.
Dyer has been a proponent of bringing a similar service to the downtown area. One consideration includes placing driverless shuttles in the fixed LYMMO routes.
“I don’t see it happening in the next year or so, but we are certainly working toward that,” said Dyer.
Demings is considering the tourist corridor as an area for the driverless shuttles.
“I could certainly see something like this in our tourism corridor; in the International Drive corridor; in the convention center, where we have to move significant numbers of people,” said Demings.
Neither Demings nor Dyer could not provide a timeline when services in those areas would launch.
As for Lake Nona, the service will eventually be expanded to include more stops along the way and eventually offer an on-demand service.
Information on future stops or a timeline for expansion have not been released.
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