Is This The Future Of Mass Transit? Utah’s First Autonomous Bus Debuts

Apr 11, 2019, 6:09 PM | Updated: 6:23 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Utah showed off the future of mass transit today as transportation leaders took a ride in their first driver-less shuttle bus.

It’s not quite ready for rush hour yet, but the autonomous shuttle will roll into a community near you sometime in the next year.

The Utah Transportation Authority and the Utah Department of Transportation will show off the autonomous vehicle all across the state in the months ahead.

“The ride was great,” said Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, after taking his first ride around a test track in West Valley City. “It was a little boring which is exactly how it’s supposed to be.”

For a vehicle with no driver, no steering wheel and no pedals, that’s a pretty good review from the lieutenant governor. He joined UDOT and UTA officials on the first official ride. There is a host on board to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“The technology is here,” he said. “It’s being refined. It still has a ways to go. But, there is no question that over the next 10 years we’re going to see major changes on the roads here in Utah.”

The Autonomous Shuttle Pilot Project, rolled out today, gives Utahns a chance to get a close look at the technology.

“We want people to get comfortable with this technology,” he said.  “So, this vehicle travels around, people will have an opportunity to come check it out, to get on board.  These vehicles are being tested all over the country, right now. Not just vehicles of this size, but even big rig trucks.”

Utah is among about a dozen states testing vehicles similar to this one operated by First Mile.

Right now, the 12-passenger shuttle is not ready for traffic. It rides at 15 mph on a pre-programmed route.

The little shuttle is electric: zero emissions. It charges overnight, and can run for 12 hours during the day.

“This is a little, baby step forward,” said Carlos Braceras, Executive Director of UDOT. “But, in the next five years or so, we’re going to see this type of technology, it’s going to be so commonplace we’re not even going to notice it around us.”

Pedestrians will want to notice, even if this shuttle is less likely to be distracted than a human behind the wheel.

The Lt. Gov. was spared a dangerous collision in a crosswalk when he tested the shuttle by stepping in front of it while it drove towards him. The shuttle stopped in plenty of time without hitting him.

“The truth is, it’s much safer than you or I,” said Cox, referring to its driving abilities.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox took a ride on the bus Thursday.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox took a ride on the bus Thursday.

In theory, the autonomous shuttle is safer than a human-operated vehicle. National data shows human error is responsible for 94% of crashes.

“There are opportunities for us to actually save lives,” said Cox.

UDOT and UTA hope to improve safety and mobility with this technology.

“It’s important to understand what the technology can do, and also to understand the limitations around the technology.”

The public can check it out at various locations across the state this year.

It will begin its tour at Station Park in Farmington next month. You can track the shuttle’s tour online.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

The crowd gathering at Washington Square to march to the Utah Capitol....
Brittany Tait

Crowd marched to Utah State Capitol in solidary with Iran

A large crowd marched from Washington Square to the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Saturday to show solidarity for those suffering in Iran.
1 day ago
Attendees at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Conference Center....
Michael Houck & Ladd Egan

Day One of 192nd Semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Tens of thousands gathered in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday for the 192nd Semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
1 day ago
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volunteers help clean up and repair the aftermath of Hurricane Ia...
Mike Anderson

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members help clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

"As horrible as natural disasters are, you see the best of humanity," Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members gather in Florida to help clean up the mess Hurricane Ian left behind.
1 day ago
Denali Stubbs, preparing his bike for the upcoming race....
Alex Cabrero

Hildale high school bike team participates in regional race

"I just want to do the same for these kids:” a Hillside parent hopes to encourage teens in his community to dream bigger by getting involved in sports.
1 day ago
Authorities responding to the fatal rollover crash. (UDOT)...
Michael Houck

Two dead after pickup truck crashes into ravine near I-215

Authorities are investigating a rollover crash that killed two of its occupants on I-215 near 1000 South Saturday afternoon. 
1 day ago
President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Saturday morning session of the 192nd Semiannual Gene...
Josh Ellis

President Nelson addresses using chair during conference talk

President Russell M. Nelson took to social media after Latter-day Saints noticed he used a chair to deliver his remarks during the Saturday morning session of the 192nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
Is This The Future Of Mass Transit? Utah’s First Autonomous Bus Debuts