Self-driving shuttles begin picking up passengers in Providence

News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It was a big day for six “Little Roady” shuttles as the fleet of self-driving vehicles began carrying passengers throughout Providence.

The free, experimental service now operates seven days a week with 12 stops between Providence Station and Olneyville Square.

Justin Bai, a student at Brown University, decided to hop on one to see what it was like.

“I don’t drive, so it’s always nice to have public transportation options,” Bai said. “I was excited to test it out.”

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. A fleet attendant is also on board to take control if there is an emergency.

Bai and his friend took the 25-minute shuttle ride from Providence to Olneyville and back. After admitting he was a little skeptical at first, Bai said he felt safe and secure the entire ride.

“I was expecting something more like a cutaway shuttle, but then I saw it was the size of a golf cart and I was a little nervous,” Bai said. “But it was a super smooth ride and I was very impressed with it.”

Jim Perry, who sat shotgun during his ride on the shuttle, also said he was impressed with how efficiently the shuttle functions.

“The blind spots in the road… It detects a lot,” Perry said. “They’re very precise. They stop right on time.”

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

The shuttles now run every day from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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