The Clearwater Beach City Council has begun working toward testing out driverless buses.
Recently, the council agreed to write a letter voicing their support for the project, to be included with a federal grant application. The tests are supported in conjunction with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Stantec, an engineering company. Supporters hope to receive funds from a $60 million grant that was approved in December of 2018, specifically for the purpose of testing and incorporating self-driving vehicles into American roads.
If approved, Clearwater Beach would begin testing electric, 12-passenger autonomous buses to drive along a one-mile path on Mandalay Avenue. The tests would occur between October and January of 2019. As a safety measure, the buses will include a camera that constantly records rides.
Clearwater Beach officials hope the initial testing period will work out some of the limitations and concerns that are currently present. For example, the bus can only reach a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour. Due to its electric power source, it cannot travel beyond the one-mile road without the need for recharging. The turning ability of the bus is also questionable; it is not able to navigate a roundabout.
Safety is one of the biggest concerns involved in the adoption of this new technology. The Tampa Bay Times cited an incident in Las Vegas, in which a truck driver backed into a driverless bus. However, no injuries occurred and the bus was not found to be at fault.
City officials hope this project will put Clearwater Beach at the forefront of the futuristic new technology of autonomous vehicles. Florida has supported bringing driverless cars to the state as well — the House State Affairs Committee recently approved a bill that, if passed, would legally allow the cars to drive on Florida’s roads without any humans present.