No driver, no wheel, no problem in CapMetro bus demonstration
Austin got a firsthand look at what self-driving transit would look like in the future.
The city's bus service, Capital Metro, brought in a 12-passenger electric shuttle to the University of Texas campus for the public to see during South by Southwest. Cap Metro's bus service provider McDonald Transit, has been developing the shuttle.
Called EasyMile EZ10, it's a fully autonomous shuttle that's already in use in 14 countries around the world. However, it's not in any U.S. city.
"Technologically this vehicle could operate on streets right now I don't think that we have the environment or policies in place," Cap Metro CEO Linda Watson said.
Cap Metro showcased the shuttle at the Sid Richardson Hall parking lot on the UT campus. The shuttle went on a fixed route on the lot and carried curious Austin residents.
"It was kind of weird actually," UT grad student Noah Anderson said. "It sort of caught me by surprise. It was sort of turning without any kind of obvious [steering] yeah."
Watson said the shuttle could be coming to Austin in the next three years. She says it wouldn't replace the large passenger buses, but would be used to carry people to and from bus stops.
She says it could be used on the UT campus or at the airport.
"We're very interested in autonomous vehicles. We think it's the wave of the future, there's a lot of possibilities with it and we think Austin is the kind of community that can really embrace this," Watson said.
There would be no employee on the bus and there's not even a steering wheel. However, a control room could operate the shuttle if needed.
"I think you'll see this continue to grow and accelerate and will become common place for us for years to come," Blaine Rigler, president of McDonald Transit, said.
Other riders say they weren't phased by the lack of a steering wheel or driver inside.
"A very calming experience," Patricia Jobe said.
"Generations in the future will think nothing of this. It will happen," Bill Jobe said.
Members of the public can also ride the shuttle on Friday, March 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.