A few may have spotted a little shuttle with an invisible driver quietly making its way down Fremont Street on Monday. No, your eyes didn’t deceive you. Nobody’s in the driver’s seat.
At 1 p.m. today, the ARMA shuttle made its official U.S. debut as the electric mini-bus with the words “bringing passengers into the future” on the side came to a stop in front of Container Park. Out stepped Mayor Carolyn Goodman saying, “We didn’t kill a soul.”
The ARMA was brought Downtown through a partnership with transportation company Keolis, French tech company NAVYA and the City of Las Vegas. Fremont East is the testing ground for the new technology.
City spokesman Jace Radke says that the ARMA shuttle is something the city is looking at for the Downtown Circulator, a free shuttle service in the making. “There needs to be some technological upgrades for it to work,” he says. “Currently the vehicle senses pedestrians and obstacles, but is not able to ‘talk’ to street lights.” He adds that Audi recently tested autonomous vehicles Downtown that do have this ability.
According to the NAVYA website, the shuttle can transport up to 15 passengers and can travel up to around 28 miles per hour. Anyone will be able to take a free spin on the ARMA through January 20 from around 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. An operator will be on board to ensure everything is working properly, but they’re not there to drive. The shuttle takes you from Las Vegas Boulevard to the 6th Street intersection.
The news comes after the city’s big announcement at the end of the year that Las Vegas (not including the Strip) is running completely on renewable energy, kinetically powered LED lights were installed near the Arts Factory, and the “innovation district” to test and create new technologies was established.
“We’re living in the day of The Jetsons,” councilman Ricki Barlow said standing in front of the futuristic bus. As the driverless shuttle pulled out of the docking station full of camera crews and journalists, it seems like he may be right.