At the last Town Board meeting Mayor Rusty Knox let the cat out of the bag about a special program coming to town. Knox enthusiastically announced that “we were the only town in the state” to get Beep.
Beep is a Florida-based autonomous vehicle company that is partnering with transportation authorities to provide small 12 to 16-passenger autonomous buses offering “safe, reliable, stress-free transportation” according their web site.
The behind the scenes talk about this started months ago, but the recent board meeting was the first public discussion.
Beep’s corporate headquarters are located in Orlando, FL and their current service areas include: Lake Nona, Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville Transit Authority), Port St. Lucie, St. Petersburg (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority), Tampa (Hillsborough Regional Area Transit) – all in Florida, as well as Peoria, Arizona.
Beep autonomous vehicles didn’t slow down in COVID, in fact they stepped up. Beep vehicles were used at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. The Jacksonville Transit Authority worked with Beep to set up a shuttle route from a mass COVID testing center to the Mayo Clinic. During the test period, Beep autonomous vehicles transported more than 20,000 COVID tests to the clinic. The autonomous vehicles minimized the human-to-human interface at the height of the pandemic.
Most recently Beep announced that they were starting shuttle service in Yellowstone National Park. called T.E.D.D.Y. (The Electric Driverless Demonstration in Yellowstone), in partnership with Local Motors, a leader in the design and manufacturing of autonomous vehicles.
This new tech transportation is seemingly the polar opposite of the winter transportation in the park. Winter visitors to Yellowstone are often transported on “SnowCats.” Those vehicles are a vintage tracked ski vehicle, made by Bombardier, that is anything but autonomous. However, they get the job done when the roads in Yellowstone are covered in six-plus feet of packed snow.
Mayor Knox said Beep should arrive this Fall and the expected route for the autonomous bus will “start at the Circles at 30, come up Griffith Street, circle around campus, come back up Concord Road, and go back toward the interstate.”
Your News of Davidson team will be there when Beep arrives in Davidson, and we’ll take you for a ride – in words and photos – until you can take a ride for yourself.
Note: because your News of Davidson team thinks that most of our readers will be most concerned about the safety of autonomous vehicles, we chose to provide the following information verbatim from the Beep web site:
Safety is at the center of everything we do as a company. It is the focal point of our planning, deployment and management of our mobility services as well as, a critical component in our partnerships and education and the driving force in our product development to increase the intelligence of autonomous vehicles.
NHTSA Partnership – Beep was one of the first service partners with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s AV Test Initiative meant to provide national awareness and learnings from autonomous deployments throughout the country.
First Responders – Beep provides hands-on training to first responders in each community before the start of each service. Our team has trained hundreds of first responders and serves as a resource to departments that are developing and implementing policies on how to prepare for autonomous vehicles as part of our future.
Community Education – Beep makes communities safer for everyone and we also become an integral part of each community we serve. Continuous education efforts before and after launch are paramount to rider adoption and sharing the roads together.