JTA Will Offer Autonomous Vehicle Test Rides During One Spark

Mar 27, 2018

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority revealed its second autonomous test vehicle Tuesday at its AV Test & Learn Track near the sports complex downtown, which is across the street from the Intuition Ale Works on Bay Street.

The public can catch a ride on an autonomous demo vehicle during OneSpark, on April 6 and 7, according to JTA.

Brad Thoburn, JTA Vice President of Planning, Development and Innovation said the free rides are a way to get community’s input and exposure, especially among those who have never seen an autonomous transit shuttle.

“And then the other piece that’s really important is getting the public the opportunity to ride on the vehicles, experience what it like to ride in an autonomous vehicle.”  

JTA wants to replace and expand the current Skyway monorail system with driverless people movers, which it sees as being more cost-effective in the long run.

The plan calls for the people movers to utilize the existing Skyway tracks after a retrofit, but to also expand - on the ground - into new areas

The expansion would include routes into Riverside, Springfield, San Marco and the sports complex.

The transit agency has invited a variety of vendors to bring in test vehicles, all of which will be autonomous and powered by electricity.

A new vehicle will be rotated in every six months as JTA determines what is needed and driverless technology advances.

The latest test vehicle has an operator on board during testing and can hold up to 12 people.

It’s also handicapped accessible with a wheelchair ramp that can deploy during stops.

Called the EasyMile Gen-2, the people mover is powered by four batteries that store 30 kilowatts of electricity. They are recharged using Level 2 J1772 charging, which is a common standard found on most electric cars. A full recharge takes approximately five hours.

Additional EasyMiles are expected to be available during the trial period to give more people an opportunity to experience them during special events.

The EasyMile Gen-2 has a top speed of 30 miles per hour, although it was going slower than that during Tuesday’s demo rides.

“The vehicles are geared to go at a lower speed, [and are] very sensitive to movements around them,” Thoburn said in stressing the measures being taken to ensure the public’s safety.

During the testing, JTA is learning how to operate the vehicles under a variety of conditions.

The transit agency is also looking at vehicles with different specifications such as size, and gathering feedback.

Among the EasyMile Gen-2’s amenities are air conditioning and USB chargers.

JTA is still working through what replacing and expanding the Skyway system would cost.

For more information on the U2C project, go to the Ultimate Urban Circulator website.

Joslyn Simmons can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org, 904-358-6316