One Texan city is about to take a big step into the future – a self-driving, on-demand future, to be exact.
A far cry from a one-horse town, the City of Arlington has approved a contract to pilot autonomous vehicles developed by self-driving car company Drive.ai, for a twelve month period.
Providing Texans with an alternative to taxis and Uber, Drive.ai will provide a fleet of three autonomous passengers with a 3 passenger capacity to the city, offering rides to both locals and tourists visiting the city’s well-known entertainment district at speeds of over 50km/hr.
Driving the vans are Nvidia high-performance GPUs and AI technology that has birthed from Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab.
By running the pilot within a geofenced area in the crowded entertainment district of Arlington, Drive.ai intend to demonstrate the safety of the vans driving alongside human-driven vehicles.
Conway Chen, vice president of business strategy at Drive.ai says that the pilot will help to reshape how people think about and experience transport.
“This forward-thinking, bustling city has unique transportation needs, and we plan to provide a last-mile transit solution within a vibrant entertainment district,” he said in a news release.
During the initial testing phase, human operators will travel in the vans to ensure the safety of the program, and in an effort to highlight the fact to other drivers and pedestrians that the vans are autonomous, Drive.ai has chosen to paint the vehicles bright orange and kit them out with illuminated signs.
“Early testing of these technologically advanced solutions will prepare the city to take advantage of unique and efficient transportation options as they become available,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said in a statement to the press.
After the pilot has concluded, the City of Arlington says it may agree with Drive.ai to extend the program to include 5 autonomous vans.
The program, which is costing a total of $435,000 has largely been funded by the US government’s Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Improvement Grant.
Drive.ai first tested their autonomous vans in Frisco last month, carrying over 150 passengers within the first 5 days in 100 trips.
Arlington will demonstrate the Drive.ai vans this October at the 3-day Texas Mobility Summit.
The demonstration of the technology for Nvidia is significant, following recent announcements by Tesla CEO Elon Musk that they will be dropping Nvidia GPUs as the electric vehicle manufacturer works towards developing its own self-driving technology.