This Associated Press article doesn’t have much by way of detail, but it’s enough to be a head scratcher:
The state Department of Transportation is looking to get out in front of the self-driving vehicle movement with a plan to provide automated service for an underserved section of Providence.
The department on Monday announced that it is accepting proposals from companies who can test and eventually deliver such a service to fill a transportation gap between downtown Providence and Olneyville via the Woonasquatucket River corridor.
Rhode Islanders should be a little nervous when our state government starts talking about getting out ahead of the private sector with technological innovations. A subsequent update to the article seems to go in an entirely different direction:
In an interview Monday, DOT director Peter Alviti Jr. said his agency doesn’t want to limit what private innovative concepts companies might propose, by mandating particular types of vehicles, the projects costs or even the route, which he said is not limited to just the Woonasquatucket River corridor.
Alviti said the DOT expects autonomous vehicles will begin appearing on Rhode Island roads with traditional cars within five years and the pilot is intended to create “tangible interactions” with the technology so the government can better understand how to plan for it. …
Although the pilot program could theoretically take the form of a bus, Alviti said the intent is not to create an autonomous mass transit system.
So, it appears the idea is to contract with some company to brainstorm just about any way self-driving vehicles might affect or be incorporated into public transit. That’s a bit more open ended of an objective than we ought to accept, and a cynic might wonder who is going to turn out to be the owner of the company that gets this open-ended brainstorming project.