We gave Las Vegas residents the chance to live a childhood dream: driving without hands! A fully autonomous vehicle operating in the heart of traffic on Freemont Street, that’s a more connected type of mobility.
CES 2018, Las Vegas
“I’ve been a bus driver for many years. This morning I was stressed out like a teenager sitting their driver’s licence test. Which was actually quite normal because I was in the process of resitting mine. But not just any driving exam, this one was for a licence to drive without hands!
I am one of the first in the world to have obtained the ‘autonomous shuttle authorised driver’s licence’, issued by the State of Nevada!
You must be wondering:
What exactly is the job of a driver for a shuttle that drives itself?
I am both a steward and captain. I welcome passengers on board, I explain to them how and why, I narrate the journey, I demonstrate and I reassure them. And at the same time, I keep an eye on the technology to check that it’s all working as it should. The shuttle is autonomous, but still not entirely free to do as it wants.
There are usually quite a lot of people on board, as it’s a free service. The AAA (American Automobile Association) and the RTC (Las Vegas’ PTA) wanted this innovation to be accessible to all, so that everyone has a chance to test it out.
The issue of safety.
That’s what I get asked all the time.
People often come up to me and say: “Hey boss, does your machine really know where to go?” Or “If a dog crosses in front without warning, what happens?” And these are the moments I love, because I get to explain how the in-built sensors and radars see everything happening around us, straightaway. This technology is even sharper than we can imagine and they have 360 degree vision.
They can manage everything simultaneously. So in the end it’s less stressful, and there are less incidents.
How can we be sure of what we’re doing?
You need to remember that we’ve done a huge number of tests beforehand. Starting two years ago in 2017 at CES, the famous Consumer Electronics Show, where the shuttle was demonstrated. We have thought of all the possible scenarios and tested them before launching the service here in Fremont Street, in the centre of Vegas.
In concrete terms, I first trialled the shuttle in manual mode to record the full operating environment: the route, the fixed elements on the journey and the four stops on the line. Then the R&D engineers created models of everything, and then they entered the settings into the shuttle, tested, re-tested, and then tested again! We also did some trial runs, in other words, we operated in real conditions, without passengers, to monitor and test the response of the vehicle faced with everyday life, normal traffic and pedestrians.
It was a real challenge in such a busy area. Unforeseen events happen all the time, and that’s also something that we plan for.
I’m very excited, it’s a real revolution.
A new era is starting. We now even have an autonomous taxi! We actually trialled services of one here, during the 2018 edition of the CES trade show. We were among the first in the world. When I imagine the city of tomorrow, with vehicles that don’t make any noise, that pollute less, with passengers who are relaxed, I say to myself I must be dreaming, but maybe it’s actually not so far from reality! It’s coming soon no doubt, because progress is starting to accelerate.
And one day we’ll all say: “I was there, I did it.” And others will maybe add: “And I even shook the hand of Londell (laughs), the first man to drive without hands!”
autonomous shuttle operator in Las Vegas
More about the autonomous shuttle in Las Vegas
Employees at Keolis share the same values: We Imagine, We Care, We Commit. These values promote our approach and the key principles that guide our activities and behaviour.
A pioneer in shared mobility, Keolis strives for continuous innovation, to co-develop customised mobility solutions for each region. That’s what we did with this twelve-month trial of an electric driverless autonomous shuttle in partnership with the City of Las Vegas. A first on open roads for the United States! Our idea was to see how it would perform and to see how people would adapt to riding on the shuttle: a real success since there were 35,000 riders on the shuttle service.
Find out more on autonomous vehicles