Companies like EasyMile have found a receptive audience among local officials, who were caught off guard a decade ago when another mobility innovation, ride hail, exploded onto the scene and siphoned off transit passengers. Given enough time to develop the technology, Agarwal believes AVs could attract new riders to transit and reduce costs, positioning agencies for long-term success.
That’s proved an appealing pitch to some transit officials, who’ve launched or plan pilot projects in cities including Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Providence, and Frisco, Texas. Even in the midst of the pandemic, local leaders continue to announce new deployments. The enthusiasm on both sides is palpable.
But the benefits of autonomous transit remain unproven, and the idea faces skepticism from riders and hostility from unions.