WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- Every time a new self-driving vehicle hits public roads it brings the technology one step closer to being rolled out en masse, and Vegas is leading the charge
Last week residents in Las Vegas became the first in the US to be able to catch a ride on a fully autonomous bus driving on public roads.
The electric 12 seat vehicles, which are being trialled for two weeks in the streets adjacent to the famous strip, will ferry passengers along east Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street, and while many people will focus on the technology we mustn’t forget the impact of these technologies on society – after all, as great as this might sound this represents another bus route that doesn’t need a driver or a conductor.
Built by Paris based Navya, and similar to the self-driving bus from Olli, the buses can drive themselves at up to 27 miles per hour, but during the test they’re going to be limited to just 12mph – which could bring about the argument of why don’t you just walk instead!? However, that asides they’ll be available between 10am and 6pm, and will drive themselves around the public roads, where they will have to deal with humans and traffic without any help from a driver.
Riding the bus, known as Arma, will be free during the test period and it is hoped the $10,000 (£8,100) per month running cost will be largely subsidised by adverts, with local businesses already expressing an interest in advertising in and on the bus, and with some companies also expressing an interest in paying for the bus to make extra stops along the journey near their offices.
If the two week trial is successful then the buses could become a regular feature in Vegas by the summer time, beating Singapore, who also intend to roll out self-driving buses, but in 2018, to the punch.
Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow said a trip in Arma felt like something from science fiction: “I remember as a young boy watch The Jetsons with the vehicles that operated by themselves. Today, ladies and gentlemen, when you talk about innovation, we are living in the day of The Jetsons.”
Meanwhile, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman, who seems to be on somewhat of a roll when it comes to US firsts, after she recently announced that the city of Las Vegas managed to meet it’s goal of running the city on 100% renewable energy, rode on the bus ahead of its public launch, said: “What a wonderful day for all of us to witness this. Being the control freak that I am, I was very nervous to get on this vehicle, but it is clean, has beautiful air and moves sort of swiftly but so beautifully down Fremont East.”
Could it be that Las Vegas is the new spiritual home of the Jetsons? We’ll see, and I’m sure Vegas, the city that never sleeps, will have more announcements soon…