The self-driving vehicle “is clearly a mode of transportation for the future but it’s a complement to other forms of transport.”
Montreal plans to launch an electric self-driving shuttle bus service in the Plaza St-Hubert area beginning in early October that will ferry passengers around until the first snowfall. Details of the pilot project were announced on Wednesday.
Two small shuttle buses provided by Paris-based transportation company Groupe Keolis will circle the block, going up St-Hubert St. and then back down St-André St., between Beaubien St. and Jean Talon St. E. The trip should take about 30 minutes, with the bus going at a maximum of 20 km/h and making seven stops along the way.
Though there will be no driver, there will always be an operator on the bus who will be prepared to step in if there any issues. It will be free for people to take the shuttle bus. Maximum capacity is 15 passengers, but because of the pandemic, for the moment only five people at a time will be allowed on board. Phase two of the pilot project will take place from May to July next year.
“When we look at the potential for self-driving vehicles, often we hear about these cars that people who live far outside the city will use,” said Éric Alan Caldwell, who is in charge of mobility for the City of Montreal’s executive committee. “The idea is that they would transform their car into an office. But that’s really incompatible with the kind of city we want, where there is more and more need for public transportation. The self-driving shuttle buses that we’re creating are really a complement to our public transportation system … and to push forward with the self-driving shuttle buses, we need to experiment and to have pilot projects.”
Groupe Keolis has been involved in providing self-driving vehicles for different cities since 2016 and they’ve launched 34 projects since then, including in Paris, Las Vegas, and Montreal.
This is the second pilot project for self-driving shuttle buses for the City of Montreal. The first happened in 2019 and drove passengers between the Olympic Park and the Marché Maisonneuve. The project was suspended in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is funded by the provincial Ministère des Affaires Municipales, which provided a grant of $5 million over five years. The total cost of the project on St-Hubert is $1.14 million.
“With these pilot projects, we’re trying to figure out how transportation will work in the future,” said Scheherazade Zekri, director of new forms of mobility at Groupe Keolis. “Keolis is one of the leaders in terms of self-driving metro trains. Self-driving metro trains started in the 1980s and now we don’t even ask the question about self-driving metro trains. The self-driving vehicle will have the same kind of future. It is clearly a mode of transportation for the future but it’s a complement to other forms of transport. It won’t be a substitute for the other kinds of mode of transportation.”
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