It is getting a little easier to get around downtown St. Petersburg. The PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority)  is launching the first autonomous vehicle in the region called the AVA. It’s a pilot programme lasting three months.

“For the city, that’s a good thing,” said Scott Stewart. As city leaders were able to take their first trip on the bus, Stewart was out riding his bike along Bayshore Road.That connects the whole city to the bike,” he said.” “It feels like the future indeed.”

To make this possible, PSTA partnered up with BEEP, the company that operates the shuttle. The Department of Transportation of Florida is paying for the initiative. The shuttle is fully electronic. It has no steering wheel or normal breaks, and it is essentially powered by a computer. To make things run smoothly, there will be a display onboard. They will step in and take over if anything happens.

“It’s an entirely different experience,” said Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA. In Tampa, back in October, HART launched a similar shuttle. During working hours, the HART shuttle shares the transit-way with buses. The shuttle from PSTA can travel right up and down Bayshore Dr. along with the other vehicles.

The shuttle is open for the public, but due to COVID-19, no more than six individuals can ride it at a time.In February, the service ends, and officials will then discuss whether to retain it or not.


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