Not too long from now, the sight of a state leader hopping aboard an autonomous vehicle may be the norm. But on Friday, the spectacle of Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials cramming into a self-driving car caused a hoopla.
Trailed by a bank of TV cameras, the Republican embarked on one of the first rides of a robotic vehicle that developers hope will soon ferry patrons from the mixed-use development complex at Assembly Yards in Doraville to a nearby MARTA station.
Officials call it the first autonomous shuttle service in metro Atlanta, but it’s just one of several in the works since then-Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill in 2017 that would allow self-driving cars to operate on public roads.
Peachtree Corners is developing a $2 million test track for autonomous vehicles along a key corridor. And Chamblee councilmembers recently passed a resolution to seek federal funding for self-driving electric shuttles along busy Peachtree Rd.
The Doraville shuttle fits about a dozen people – although 15 were smushed in the car with Kemp – and it’s designed to take employees at the new Serta Simmons complex at Assembly to and from the Doraville MARTA station. The route could eventually expand to other nearby stops.
The governor pronounced himself impressed by the “forward looking” driver-less shuttle concept shortly after finishing his ride. He was asked if he would endorse other efforts to expand autonomous driving on public streets.
“Absolutely, when we get ready. It makes a lot of sense, when they’re connected to MARTA stations. It helps the workforce get here quickly,” he said. “Before I got in office and since I’ve been here, the state is very supportive of that kind of ingenuity and forward thinking.”
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