Something is driving this drive for driverless vehicles. And it’s not rider demand.
Now Orlando, home of “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” is preparing to launch (?) driverless buses. City buses carrying numerous people — except no driver — from point to point.
But not to worry. Officials reassure that something or someone, who is not on the bus and who has no skin in the game, is monitoring the situation from afar. In fact, the Beep bus’ French manufacturer will monitor its buses across the country from its headquarters in Orlando.
“Autonomous vehicles are going to prove to be safer than vehicles with drivers,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer.
It’s true in a way that vehicles with drivers do run into more things and people than driverless vehicles. That likely has a close connection with the fact that there are a gazillion more vehicles with drivers than vehicles without them. Thankfully.
Americans may come around to feeling comfortable with no one in the driver’s seat. Once these transport robots build a record of customer trust and reliability.
The mayor already loves them. “Autonomous vehicles can’t be distracted,” he says. “We’ve learned that these vehicles can be operated safely.”
So, starting this spring the battery-powered, 16-passenger buses will begin ferrying people around parts of Orlando with plans to expand later. A growing number list of cities — Detroit, Las Vegas, Jacksonville — is deploying or studying the technology in various forms.
The French manufacturer is Navya with buses running in Australia, France, Belgium, Hong Kong and Japan, according to officials.
The apparent drive behind all this driverless stuff is not consumer demand. It’s labor costs — one worker with a desktop monitoring many vehicles. No overtime. And, more importantly, no lasting pension costs to bust future city and state budgets.
On a full charge the Beep bus batteries last nine hours.
Besides computers, they use both artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning the system will work better the more it learns from actual operations.
That also seems to mean that you might not want to ride on the driverless buses until they get up to, say, high school or perhaps even college. And hopefully, at 16 miles an hour the artificial intelligence never learns how much fun it is to go fast.