NORFOLK, Va. — A new kind of public transportation is under consideration in Hampton Roads.
HRT joined a nationwide study to see if autonomous technology is realistic for public transportation.
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has partnered with Hampton Roads Transit and eleven other agencies across the county to study this new form of transportation. The study will also look at what is the regulatory environment for the new mode of transportation.
HRT’s Chief Planning and Development Officer, Ray Amoruso said it is first of its kind approach. No full-service autonomous buses are running across the country just yet.
“We will be looking at how they perform. They are all electric, no diesel fuel. How they perform under full passenger load. How they perform on a hot July day. When the rain comes. How they interact with pedestrians and other traffic human beings making sudden decisions,” he explained.
13News Now talked to several people who ride HRT buses. Some said they would love to see driverless buses, while others have some concerns.
“I worry about mechanical failure because what if the bus kind of went off, there would be no one there to put it on manual,” explained a passenger.
Amoruso said the study is currently in phase one. Sometime soon, they could move to the next phase.
“If the HRT board says, 'let’s go.' We have money already from different sources that we can go into phase two with the twelve properties and buy the buses,” Amoruso explained.
The money would come from grants. If approved, the buses would only serve three routes across Hampton Roads starting in 2021 under a one-year pilot program. Amoruso said vast majority bus drivers would keep their job. Others would be reassigned to another role.