ROCHESTER, Minn. - The pandemic postponed the timeline for when futuristic transportation would begin zipping around Rochester. However, we’re now learning we could see autonomous shuttle services in just a few months.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation says shuttle pilots will be launched near the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
Executive Director of MnDOT‘s Office of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV-X) Kristin White says the city is working to bring automated technology to full-sized transit buses in partnership with First Transit, MnDOT, and Destination Medical Center among others.
“These micro shuttles can help support some Rochester transit that's already successfully launched in the community,” said White.
“We're also trying to understand the winter weather challenges. We always talk about the winter here in Minnesota, and Rochester is no exception, so maybe these vehicles can help navigate in winter weather climates where other traditional transportation, like transit, may not be able to.”
While the operation was put on hold during the pandemic White does say it allowed for the testing of newer technologies and identifying infrastructure improvements needed to safely test on public roadways.
So, if all goes well, she says this summer we should see a soft launch on Rochester streets.
White added, “A soft launch where we test out some of the kinks, make sure we have no one in the vehicles or around them. We have all engineers and the safety experts around them and we're hoping to do that this summer, July/August. Then, potentially if that goes well, we'll be able to pilot the technologies with people in and around the DMC, the Mayo Clinic area this August.”
If the timeline is accurate for an August pilot launch there will be a person inside monitoring the vehicle’s progress so it won’t be 100% without an operator.
Work is also underway for the first CAV corridor planning effort with communities along Highway 52 from Rochester to St. Paul.