Self-Driving Shuttles Coming to New York’s JFK Airport

Two autonomous buses will transport passengers starting in mid-July

Graham Hope

July 10, 2024

2 Min Read
Ohmio's self-driving bus.
Ohmio

Visitors to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City will soon be able to use self-driving shuttles as part of a new pilot.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, has confirmed that two autonomous buses will transport people around one of the airport’s huge parking lots from mid-July.

The buses are made by Ohmio, a company based in Auckland, New Zealand and will operate throughout the summer.

Although they will drive themselves, courtesy of a suite of cameras, sensors and GPS trackers, each will be accompanied by an onboard human safety monitor who will provide reassurance for riders. Each monitor will be a bus driver familiar with the surroundings.

Both buses will also be clearly labeled as “self-driving” to ensure that prospective passengers are aware of the technology which underpins them.

The shuttles will operate at JFK’s Parking Lot 9 – which is connected to AirTrain’s Lefferts Boulevard and Howard Beach Stations – and use the same stops and same route as the conventional human-driven bus which normally operates there. Each can carry eight seated passengers.

While initially the new shuttles will drive around the lot one at a time, ultimately the hope is that more will join the pilot to create platoons, which will result in shorter wait times for passengers. 

Related:Self-Driving Taxi Tests Approved in NYC, but Human Operators Required

It’s not the first time the Port Authority has tested autonomous transport – it tested shuttles at Newark Airport in New Jersey in 2023 – but the JFK program marks the first involvement of the public in a pilot.

Indeed, as might be expected from a city with a road system as complex as New York, public demos of AVs have been extremely rare there, with the only previous trial believed to be a shuttle service operated by the now defunct Optimus Ride in 2019 on private roads in Brooklyn. However, in March, the city indicated it is ready to embrace self-driving tech by issuing guidelines for testing permits.

Port Authority transport planner Leo Tsang said he had high hopes for the JFK pilot, and autonomous tech generally, explaining: “The idea is to enhance the existing public transit system and make it more accessible for everyone. I think autonomous vehicles allow so much more flexibility and open up our main transit systems to so many more people who might not be able to use it today.”

The JFK trial constitutes the second major pilot using Ohmio buses at one of the world’s busiest airports in a matter of months. In March, it was revealed that autonomous Ohmio shuttles were being tested to move staff around at Schipol, in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Related:Self-Driving Buses Testing at Amsterdam Airport

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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