Clearwater Beach Testing Driverless Buses

A driverless bus for tourist pickups on Clearwater Beach is in the planning for testing on Mandalay Avenue, according to the city.

The City Council agreed during a recent work session to write a letter of support for the demonstration of a 12-passenger, self-driving vehicle along Mandalay. The letter will be included in an application for a federal grant to run the project.

The federal government in December announced $60 million in grants to entities that test the “safe integration of automated driving systems” into the nation’s road systems.

The proposed test, a collaboration between the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, engineering firm Stantec and the city, would run between October and January, before the height of the winter tourist season kicks in.

The proposed one-mile test route would run a loop from the Pier 60 area north on Mandalay to Juanita Way. A technologist monitoring the onboard systems can grab the wheel to go around stopped delivery vehicles and avoid other mishaps.

Onboard cameras will constantly record surrounding traffic and all incidents.

The Clearwater police and fire departments are on it on the project, too and have discussed using a lot adjacent to Fire Station 46 at 534 Mandalay Ave. to serve as a staging area for the vehicle, which resembles a small, square bus.

The location provides electricity to recharge the vehicle at night and access to wireless Internet, which lets researchers download data collected by the vehicle’s systems during the day.

Wifi is vital to the driverless vehicle trials on public roadways. Two competing systems are being tested in the country: One would have driverless vehicles depending on sensors along the route to guide them; the other system constantly downloads data into the vehicle to avoid collisions and make such decisions as where to turn and where to stop.

There are limits to the vehicle’s abilities, however.

It runs about 12 mph, and to ensure it runs all day without a recharge, the route it follows can’t be longer than a mile and it also can’t negotiate the traffic circle on Clearwater Beach.

The buses can still get in accidents. That’s what happened on the first day the Navya bus was tested in Las Vegas, according to city officials.

A delivery truck driven by a human driver backed into the shuttle just a few hours after a city ceremony launching the test in November 2017.

According to extensive media reporting on the incident, no one on the bus or in the truck was injured. Las Vegas Metro Police cited the delivery truck driver, and said the French-built, self-driving vehicle was not at fault. City officials wrote that the “shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that its sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident.”

Driverless cars or autonomous driving vehicles are no longer a thing of the future. They were designed with  cameras, sensors, artificial intelligence and algorithms to replace human drivers and eliminate human error, which is one of the leading causes of truck accidents, car accidents and bus accidents. However, like everything else, nothing is perfect and these driverless cars can be involved in collisions. Because driverless car accident lawsuits are relatively new, these claims involve thorough investigation to determine liability and a tenacity to initiate a new venture when it comes to pursuing justice for accident victims.

Our Tampa Bay Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have handled thousands of personal injury and wrongful death claims related to motor vehicle collisions. We are fully prepared to hold those responsible for car accidents accountable for their actions. Call us today at 727-823-0000 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation case consultation.

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