Self-driving shuttle rolls into Whitby

Residents in Durham will be the first to test out a new self-driving shuttle that’s hitting the streets in the region.

On Monday, Durham Region Transit officials offered up a close-up look at how the vehicle travels along its six-kilometre route. The shuttle is emission free and integrates smart technology along the route.

“It can operate and charge overnight and operate throughout the day with no emissions at all. By looking at zero-emission vehicles we are looking to do our part to reduce emissions that come from the transportation sector which is a big contributor to emissions in Durham Region and across Canada,” a transit official said.

The aim of the pilot project is to offer a safe and smart option for commuters. The vehicle itself is equipped with radar and a 360-degree camera that are constantly scanning for obstacles and adjusting and navigating around them.

The shuttle will operate at a speed of no more than 20 kilometres per hour and will have a trained safety attendant on board who can manually take control of the vehicle at any time, if required.

Tenille Houston, CEO of AutoGuardian by Smartcone, says the technology is a step in the right direction.

“So when you can move these types of shuttles into environments like this, you can look forward to a greener, safer future. These are 100-per cent electric, zero emissions, and as we all know, human error is the cause of 94 per cent of accidents today, so if we can get these vehicles on the road and they are smarter and safer we can hopefully alleviate that and make safer roads for all,” Houston said.

The pilot project is a partnership between Smartcone Technologies, AutoGuardian by SmartCone, the Town of Whitby and the Region of Durham.

Passengers will have a chance to board the shuttle starting Tuesday. The six-kilometre route will begin and end at the Whitby Go station. The shuttle will operate weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and on weekends between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.