Self-driving shuttles set to hit the road in Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you're out and about in Providence in the coming days you may notice some people riding around in revolutionary technology.

A fleet of six "Little Roady" autonomous transport shuttles will go into service on Wednesday, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced Tuesday.

The shuttles function like any other vehicle - stopping at lights, waiting at crosswalks, and breaking for any unexpected hazards such as jaywalkers. They have 30 different sensors, radars and cameras that allow them to see a full 360 degrees.

The free, experimental service will operate seven days a week with 12 stops between Providence Station and Olneyville Square. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said those five miles represent the longest public transit route for self-driving vehicles in the country.

Gov. Gina Raimondo was among the first group of Rhode Islanders to take the shuttles for a spin.

The vehicles, provided by Michigan-based May Mobility, underwent 500 miles of safety testing in Providence and North Kingstown prior to being put online.

They can accommodate up to five passengers along with a "fleet attendant," who will assist new riders and be able to take over the shuttle's controls, if necessary.

The pilot program also serves as a research project to study the feasibility of self-driving cars.

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