RIDOT: Self-driving shuttles have seen ‘great ridership’ since service began


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s been six months since the Rhode Island of Transportation (RIDOT) introduced autonomous shuttles to the streets of Providence, and so far, the agency says close to 26,000 passengers have already taken advantage of the free, and experimental, service.

The six “Little Roady” shuttles began picking up passengers back in May. The service makes 12 stops between Providence Station and Olneyville Square.

RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said the year-long pilot program has been popular from the get-go.

“We’ve been getting great ridership,” Alviti said. “The ridership since we started has gone up from about 130 trips a day to about 150 trips a day.”

Alviti said the service has mostly been smooth sailing, but there have been some bumps in the road.

Over the summer, the shuttle was out of service for several days because it was unairconditioned. Since then, Alviti said that has been addressed.

It also took a couple of months before the fleet introduced its first handicapped-accessible shuttle — which is only available upon special request.

Alviti said the shuttle attendants — who sit behind the controls — only need to take over roughly 25% of the time.

There have also been a few minor accidents.

“[The accidents] had to do more with its operation as it approached a stop, maybe an incident when it approached a curb or whatnot, and they were generally minor in nature,” Alviti said. “I think we only had one that resulted in an alleged injury.”

Overall, Alviti said the program has been successful and RIDOT plans to continue offering it once the pilot program ends.

“I certainly envision them, even with the little data we have at this point, as being something as we evolve will be absolutely integrated into our system in different ways,” he said.

The pilot program is currently free and is being funded by grant money.

Alviti said once it ends, RIDOT will consider adding a fare, expanding the current route or adding a new route.

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