Driverless tech considered for two-year pilot in Arlington

An autonomous vehicle system that would serve the Entertainment District is being considered by the Arlington City Council, the Arlington Voice has learned

  • Riders board an EasyMile EZ10 autonomous vehicle at a demonstration in Arlington.
    Riders board an EasyMile EZ10 autonomous vehicle at a Feburary demonstration in Arlington.
  • Easymile EZ10
    The autonomous vehicle system proposed for Arlington's Entertainment District would use two EasyMile EZ10 shuttles. (Photo courtesy EasyMile)
  • Routes considered for the Easymile Autonomous Vehicle system for Arlington, TX
    Proposed routes for an autonomous vehicle system serving Arlington's Entertainment District
Zack Maxwell

The Arlington City Council will consider a two-year pilot program using the driverless technology recently demonstrated at the Convention Center.

The EasyMile autonomous vehicle system up for consideration would transport riders from parking lots to venue destinations along pre-programmed routes serving the Entertainment District.

Proposed as a one-year pilot with an option to renew for an additional year, the program would cost approximately $275,000 per year. Funding would come from the Convention Event Services Fund, partnerships and grants.

The City would lease two EZ10 shuttles. The 12-person vehicles -- sometimes referred to as “people movers” – are manufactured in France. Each vehicle requires an on-board operator, whose services would be covered under the proposed lease.

The battery-powered vehicles travel along pre-programmed paths at a cruising speed of 20 miles per hour. Using sensors, the cars are capable of detecting obstacles and stopping for pedestrians.

The compact nature of the vehicle, along with its ability to change path directions without turning, allows for off-street routes.

One proposed route would provide a connection between the Convention Center and the intersection of AT&T Way and East Randol Mill. A second route -- a short walk away from the first -- would connect from Randol Mill to the intersection of Cowboys Way and Ballpark Way. Proposed auxiliary routes would potentially provide direct transportation to Globe Life Park.

Proposed routes for an autonomous vehicle system that would serve Arlington's Entertainment District

It’s a “smooth, cheaper, and cleaner” technology about which Mayor Jeff Williams expressed excitement in early February at the EasyMile demonstration.

“I think all of us need to be open to look at the technology and to see what opportunities are available,” Williams said. “We’re in a transformational age in transportation in which we’re going to see so many advancements. For us to be in the middle is exciting.”

Arlington was selected in January by the US Department of Transportation as one of ten pilot sites for self-driving car tests.

If given the green-light during Tuesday’s afternoon meeting, the Council could vote on a lease as soon as March 28. Service would start in May or June.