VW Settlement Funds Support The “Little Roady” Autonomous Shuttle

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A post by CleanTechnica from 2015 reported: “Mock and German smelled a rat – actually, nitrogen oxide, a sugary-smelling but dangerous air pollutant – belching out of Volkswagen diesel engines made for the European market. Engineering clean diesel is no drive in the park – scrubbing out nitrogen oxide can cut drastically into fuel economy, according to Spectrum, a professional engineering journal. But when nitrogen oxide is released, it contributes to forming smog, accelerates climate change and exacerbates respiratory diseases such the current asthma epidemic, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates to affect 23 million Americans, including 6 million children.”

Volkswagen came to a settlement in relation to environmental claims made as a result of the diesel emissions cheating scandal. Well, I know some of us wonder where those funds are going. I voted for and hoped the funds would go to electric school buses, as children are more affected by all toxins (more than adults, who are also affected). I think it’s imperative children should be provided clear clean-air transportation to school.

Screenshot From The Human Element (a film that highlights statistics on children suffering from air pollution as well as other environmental issues.

So, we have been following up on where some of those VW settlement funds wentCleanTechnica recently received an email to let us know where some of the funds are showing up in order to help advance electric transport. In the case that’s the focus of this story, we’re talking not only electric but in this case self-driving transport. The Little Roady, an autonomous shuttle pilot project, now offers self-driving transport in Rhode Island, and it is an awardee of some of that VW dieselgate settlement funding.

RIDOT (the Rhode Island Department of Transportation) is using these self-driving shuttles as a pilot project to fill a transit gap between its downtown-Providence Amtrak station and a business park across the river.

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The information passed on to CleanTechnica explained that RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr., along with state and local officials, hosted a demonstration of autonomous vehicle technology at the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown. The vehicles tested this week are scheduled to launch in Providence this spring.

The Little Roady shuttles are being provided by May Mobility. The company entered into a public-private partnership with RIDOT last fall. “Under the terms of the public-private partnership with May Mobility, Inc., RIDOT will contribute $800,000 for the first year of operation. This includes $300,000 of 100 percent federal research funds through the Federal Highway Administration and a $500,000 grant awarded by the R.I. Attorney General’s Office as part of a settlement with Volkswagen.”

The vehicles are being tested this week on low-volume roads in Quonset Business Park. 

The press continues that, “The debut of the autonomous vehicles is the latest step in a multi-agency effort called the Rhode Island Transportation Innovation Partnership (TRIP), which RIDOT launched in 2017. TRIP also includes a research component, with the goal of studying autonomous mobility solutions, ridership, workforce impacts, environmental impacts, and technology adoption, among others.

“The research being conducted in this pilot project will help the Department better understand the opportunities and challenges that come with integrating this new technology onto Rhode Island roads. The research will help improve transit and provide information for communities, the workforce, and policymakers.”

“This project gives us the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with this new technology and that information will be invaluable when we look ahead to the impact that autonomous vehicles will have on public transportation in the future,” said Scott Avedisian, CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority  (RIPTA). “Having some of our bus operators ride the shuttle routes is also going to allow them to share important feedback on the role of on-board personnel and passenger needs.”

“Every time we expand to a new city, it allows us to learn something new. Partnering with RIDOT, we are more closely integrated with existing rail and other services than ever before,” said May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson. “We’re fanatical about solving real-world transportation problems, and with this new route, we’ll show how our self-driving technology can have a positive impact for the citizens of Rhode Island. Not someday, but today.”

More details of the Little Roady Shuttle include: Yes, indeed, each vehicle is fully electric. The Little Roady is capable of carrying 5 passengers as well as an attendant who is trained to operate the vehicle manually. Up to 6 vehicles will be on the road at the same time. 

RIDOT’s contract with May Mobility includes options to extend the service for an additional two years.

“The testing period in Quonset will be followed by similar testing in Providence, prior to the start of service. This includes testing of the vehicles and all their sensors, and a rigorous acceptance testing protocol in which the vehicles must pass several safety tests including adhering to lanes, avoiding obstacles, and safe operations in both daytime and nighttime conditions as well as in different types of adverse weather. Between the two locations, the fleet will undergo 500 miles of testing.”

More information about the TRIP program can be found at www.ridot.net/TRIP.

Related Stories:

How Two Clean Air Detectives Exposed The VW Emissions Defeat

Use Volkswagen Settlement Funds To Buy Electric School Buses

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor. Pronouns: She/Her

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