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

Local News

Four people associated with the New Yorker nightclub in Salt Lake City are now facing criminal char...

Pat Reavy, KSL.com

Employees of New Yorker nightclub face money laundering, other charges

Four people associated with the New Yorker nightclub in Salt Lake City are now facing criminal charges following a yearlong investigation into the now-closed business.

9 minutes ago

FILE (Chopper 5)...

Eliza Pace

Free, family-friendly 4th of July celebration to be held at the Gateway

The Gateway is preparing to host a 4th of July celebration complete with live music and fireworks. 

2 hours ago

(KSL TV)...

Casey Scott

Casey Scott surprises Utahns with free gas cards and bro hugs at Sugar House Park

It's Wednesday, which means Casey Scott was surprising a few lucky Utahns with $50 gas cards, Sinclair Oil prize packs and bro hugs! Today, Casey was running around Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City.

3 hours ago

A man and young girl were injured following a motorcycle accident on Tuesday....

Eliza Pace

19-year-old man arrested in connection to Salt Lake City homicide

A 19-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of shooting and killing 30-year-old Nico Christopher Patino in May.

4 hours ago

Police arresting the suspect in a double homicide in St. George on June 19, 2024....

Josh Ellis

Two people shot, killed in southern Utah home; suspect taken into custody

Police say two people were shot and killed and officers issued a shelter-in-place order as they search for a suspect who is considered armed and dangerous.

12 hours ago

FILE (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)...

Debbie Worthen

Justice Department report alleges Utah in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

A Justice Department report released Tuesday suggests Utah is segregating youth and adults with disabilities.

20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

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