By Tessa Roy, WPRO News
A fleet of self-driving electric cars are being tested on the quiet roads of Quonset before they become part of a pilot shuttle program in Providence this spring. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is testing them in partnership with the city, Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), Rhode Island Transportation Innovation Partnership (TRIP), and the Quonset Development Corporation.
The “Little Rhody Shuttle” program will deploy 3-6 autonomous vehicles at a time to roadways along the Woonasquatucket River Corridor, which RIDOT says currently lacks transit service. It will offer free rides daily along 12 stops from Olneyville Square to Providence Station.
The cars can pick up and transport up to 5 passengers at a time between those stops. They’ll also be staffed with safety operators in case the vehicle needs to be manually driven at any time.
The autonomous vehicles are provided through another public-private partnership with May Mobility, Inc. RIDOT will contribute $800,000 for the first year of operation, including $300,000 of federal research funds through the Federal Highway Administration and a $500,000 grant from the Attorney General’s office as part of the Volkswagen settlement.