Frisco is holding public meetings to answer questions and share information about self-driving vans that are hitting the streets this month.
The fleet of seven Drive.ai autonomous vans is undergoing testing along the pilot programs initial route from Hall Park to The Star in Frisco. The first riders will be able to use the vans July 30.
In the initial phase of the program’s rollout, the vans will be autonomous but a safety driver will ride in the front seat as people get used to the idea of driverless vehicles in Frisco.
“These cars drive like your most conservative driver you could ever imagine,” said Drive.ai’s Don Lepard. “It’s not going to do an aggressive lane change or aggressive braking or try to get in front of traffic.”
Lepard says he’s spent hours riding in the autonomous vans to test the experience for future riders.
The pilot program will at first be available to employees at Hall Park who can use the service to travel the short distance to The Star in Frisco. Riders will use an app to call the service, which will pick them up for free. The first rollout of the program will be available to two buildings in Hall Park with eventual expansion of service to all of the 10,000 employees who work in 17 office buildings.
Transportation authorities are watching how users adapt to the program closely and if employees at Hall Park are willing to leave their cars at the office and share a self-driving van ride to The Star for lunch or dinner.
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“If we can prove that out, that people are willing to do that, maybe we can build on it to look at longer trips and mobility needs,” said Frisco Assistant Director of Engineering Brian Moen.
He says if users are willing to use the pilot program, autonomous vehicles may be a tool to combat traffic tie-ups in the future.
“We see autonomous driving technology is happening,” said Denton County Transportation Authority President Jim Cline. “It’s something that we want to embrace and make sure that we could actually understand all the institutional pieces that have to happen to make this work.”
Drive.ai will be hosting ‘educational’ Town Hall meetings open to the public at Frisco City Council chambers in the George A. Purefoy Municipal Center at 6101 Frisco Square Blvd.
The first meeting is Saturday, July 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
There will also be an informational meeting on July 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.