TARTA to pilot autonomous bus technology

by Sylvania AdVantage Staff

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority will receive a $1.8 million grant for a pilot program to test autonomous bus technology in Toledo. The test program will begin in 2019 and is expected to run for approximately three years. Exploring autonomous vehicles is a component in TARTA’s recently introduced Move Toledo strategic vision that outlines a variety of initiatives to enhance public transportation in metro Toledo (www.movetoledo.com). Originally slated to begin in a few years, this grant expedites TARTA’s plans to investigate the use of autonomous vehicles and electric-powered vehicles.

An autonomous shuttle bus will transport passengers along a dedicated route in the Toledo area. The exact route is still being determined but will likely connect several popular destinations in downtown Toledo. While the goal is for the vehicle to function autonomously, a driver will be in the vehicle at all times to ensure the safety of passengers, other drivers and pedestrians.

TARTA’s autonomous vehicle pilot program will make Toledo one of the first cities in the nation to explore the use of autonomous vehicles for public transit, positioning the region as a leader in this technology. Knowledge gained from the program will be used to improve future developments of autonomous vehicle technologies for eventual use around the globe.

TARTA CEO-General Manager Jim Gee said, “This grant from the Federal Highway Administration makes it possible for Toledo to be on the cutting edge of new technologies. TARTA is proud to play a role in the evolution of public transit on a national and even global scale, especially in a way that makes significant contributions to Northwest Ohio. It is an exciting time for TARTA and public transit in Toledo.”

This program is possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. TARTA secured the grant in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. The grant is expected to fully fund the program; no local tax dollars will be used.

TARTA’s autonomous vehicle pilot program was announced during the third “Technology Takes the Wheel” seminar at The University of Toledo. The free seminar was focused on self-driving buses as the future of public transportation and hosted by the UT College of Engineering and AAA Northwest Ohio. In addition to remarks from Gee, the event featured Chris Pauly, director of business development in North America for NAVYA, a manufacturer of autonomous vehicles; Lt. Col. (retired) John Tucker, sales specialist for Path Master Inc., a traffic technology provider; Dr. Eddie Chou, UT professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Transportation Systems Research Lab; and Dr. Bhuiyan Alam, associate professor in the UT Department of Geography and Planning.

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority was formed in 1971 and is a political subdivision under Ohio law, similar to a park district or a school district. TARTA supplies more than 3.1 million passenger trips annually and provides interconnected, regional service to six communities in Lucas County – Toledo, Maumee, Waterville, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania and Sylvania Township – and Rossford in Wood County.

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