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September 12, 2023
Students and staff at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Charlotte will get the chance to experience autonomous transport for six months as part of a pilot with Beep.
The Florida-based self-driving tech company has confirmed it will be testing an all-electric self-driving shuttle on the UNC campus as part of its growing relationship with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
Previously, Beep and NCDOT worked together on a pilot in the town of Cary’s Fred G Bond Metro Park, where a shuttle ferried residents and tourists along a four-stop, 1.6-mile route.
At UNC, the shuttle – named CASSI (for Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation) – will operate along a longer, six-stop 2.2-mile route connecting the Popp Martin Student Union, Greek Village, academic buildings and dormitories and the main campus light rail station, which is located on the LYNX Blue Line.
The LYNX Blue Line is a light railway that operates along 18 miles with 26 stations, connecting users to 11 park-and-ride facilities and directly to UNC Charlotte, and by linking up with it, CASSI will significantly expand the transport options available to those on campus.
The shuttle itself is made by French company Navya, and seats eight passengers. It uses lidar, cameras and GNSS antenna to deliver its automated functionality, and although it drives itself, an attendant will always be on board to monitor progress and answer any questions.
Ultimately, NCDOT wants the initiative to show how AV solutions can improve the local transport network, and as such CASSI will face more complex challenges than it encountered during the previous pilot in Cary, with the longer route featuring more traffic signals, for example.
Riders will be encouraged to provide feedback on the comfort, convenience and safety of the program.
The university also hopes there will be specific benefits for it, too.
“The intent of this pilot is to introduce autonomous technologies to the campus community and provide insight on how and where we may be able to leverage this and similar platforms on campus in the future,” said Doug Lape, UNC Charlotte’s associate vice chancellor.
“Our experience in deploying safe, effective shared autonomous mobility services for many thousands of passengers across the country will directly benefit the UNC Charlotte community in ensuring another positive result from this important program, which is transforming the future of mobility,” said Beep CEO Joe Moye.
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