Before 11 a.m. Tuesday, a line snaked down the sidewalk outside of Peachtree Corners City Hall. Dozens of people were waiting to try something city officials have described as the first of its kind: a free self-driving shuttle service.
Among those in line was Dean Jones. The Peachtree Corners resident had read about the project and had to see it for herself.
“It was my curiosity that made me want to come,” Jones said. “It would be great to cut back on traffic.”
That’s just one of the goals for Peachtree Corners leaders and the business partners working with them. Two autonomous vehicles, called Olli and manufactured by Arizona-based Local Motors, will operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, traveling on a 1.5-mile track alongside regular traffic on Technology Parkway. The new shuttle is part of Peachtree Corners’ Curiosity Lab, a “living laboratory” designed to test self-driving vehicles and other cutting-edge technology, said City Manager Brian Johnson.
“We’re at the forefront of this emerging technology,” said Councilman Alex Wright, who Mayor Mike Mason credited with first suggesting the city explore autonomous vehicle technology. “We’re in the position to do great things.
PHOTOS | See the shuttle’s debut
Curiosity Lab was officially opened three weeks ago, and has been in the works since early 2018. It includes a start-up incubator and the test track where the self-driving Olli shuttle has been operating in advance of the Tuesday launch. The test track on Technology Parkway is a lane separated from traffic by permanent white cones, allowing autonomous vehicles to “learn” how to safely navigate.
The shuttles themselves are unassuming at first glance, looking like modern, truncated buses. But, in addition to being capable of operating autonomously, the Olli vehicles consist of many 3D-printed components and are mostly recyclable, according to Nick Cole, Local Motors’ senior vice president of sales.
The shuttle has seven regular stops and the track covers multiple hotels, office space and a restaurant. But this could be just the start of the program’s reach, Councilman Alex Wright said.
“It this is successful, if we can make this work, maybe one day this will go to Town Center,” Wright said. “Heck, maybe one day it will go all through the city.
City officials, residents and visitors were among those riding the driver-free vehicles. One vehicle took 10 people at a time on a 3-mile round-trip lasting about 20 minutes. For those who sought a quicker jaunt on the shuttle, another Olli took passengers on a two-minute loop around the Peachtree Corners City Hall parking lot.
Jones was among the first to take the ride around the parking lot and found the ride “smooth, nice and comfortable.”
“I think it’s fascinating. It’s wonderful. It’s exciting,” Jones said. “It really puts Peachtree Corners on the map.”
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