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US city Grand Rapids begins year-long autonomous vehicle trial
On 26 July, the city of Grand Rapids in Michigan, United States, officially launched a year-long trial of autonomous vehicles, according to MLive. The Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (AVGR) is using four autonomous shuttles, provided by May Mobility, for the trial. These six-seat shuttles will transport passengers along a downtown Grand Rapid bus route, going from east to the west side of the vicinity, free of charge. The one-year long trial is scheduled to run through 26 July 2020.
The 3.2-mile (5.2 km) route follows DASH West route providing access to Downtown, West Side and Heartside Business Districts. The route has more than 20 stops, including at more than 10 nearby parking lots as well as the David D. Hunting YMCA, Kendall College of Art & Design, Grand Rapids Children's Museum, Van Andel Arena, and Bridge Street Market. The shuttles will run five days a week, from Tuesday through Friday, from 7 am to 7 pm. Although these shuttles will run in autonomous mode, with a top speed of 25 miles per hour (mph), each will have a safety driver on board to take control of the vehicle, if needed.
Significance: Autonomous driving is set to transform the mobility in urban areas. The USD650,000-AVGR is a partnership with nine Michigan companies, including May Mobility, Consumer Energy, Rockford Construction, Seamless, Steelcase, Start Garden as well as automotive suppliers Faurecia and Gentex. Grand Rapids will contribute USD250,000 for the project while the private partners will pay the remaining USD400,000. According to the Grand Rapid city government, the year-long trial will help it to understand how autonomous vehicles work in a variety of weather conditions. It will also help the government better define accessibility standards for autonomous vehicles.
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