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LA TIMES: Walt Disney World plans to deploy driverless shuttles

kpilcher

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Just posted on the LA Times website a few minutes ago. This may have something to do with Martin's hints in the Gondola thread.


LA TIMES: Walt Disney World plans to deploy driverless shuttles in Florida
Russ MitchellContact Reporter

Walt Disney World in Florida appears poised to launch the highest-profile commercial deployment of driverless passenger vehicles to date, testing a fleet of driverless shuttles that could cart passengers through parking lots and around its theme parks.

According to sources with direct knowledge of Disney’s plans, the company is in late-stage negotiation with at least two manufacturers of autonomous shuttles – Local Motors, based in Phoenix, and Navya, based in Paris. It’s unclear whether contracts would go to both or just one of the companies.

The sources, who asked not be identified to avoid offending Disney, said the company plans a pilot program later this year to transport employees in the electric-drive robot vehicles. If that goes well, they said, the shuttles would begin transporting park visitors sometime next year.

Currently, there are no plans for driverless shuttles at Disneyland in Anaheim, according to the sources. The reason is unclear, but Florida puts few restrictions on driverless vehicle deployment, while California is overhauling regulations that have been criticized by industry as unnecessarily heavy handed.


Disney did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment. Navya and Local Motors declined to discuss Disney.

A barrage of media coverage on driverless cars over the last year or so has primed the public for their appearance on public roads. Although vehicle manufacturers say individuals won’t be able to buy driverless cars for several years, vehicles are being gradually introduced to the public in limited areas.

Waymo, the driverless arm of Alphabet-Google, has begun offering rides in driverless cars in Phoenix.


Last year, several driverless shuttle companies started testing the vehicles with public passengers in business parks and college campuses in Finland, Singapore, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and other locations.

Autonomous shuttles are bound to be “the first exposure most people have to driverless technology,” said Ben Stinnet, chief operating officer at Auro Robotics, a start-up in Santa Clara, Calif. The company, which is not involved in the Disney deal, is testing small shuttles at Santa Clara University.

Other shuttle start-ups include EasyMile of Toulouse, France, and SB Drive of Tokyo.

Most of the vehicles are shaped like tall bricks on wheels. With plenty of headroom, the shuttles typically can carry up to 12 to 15 passengers. Equipped with cameras, radar and laser sensors, they’re limited in “geofenced” areas – zones where the environment is well-mapped and understood by the vehicles’ artificial intelligence software and hardware.

Though the shuttles are capable of driving 25 mph or more, their speed is usually limited in initial deployments to 5 to 10 mph.

“They should be boring,” said Alain Kornhauser, an autonomous vehicle expert at Princeton University. “Riding in an elevator is boring. It takes you where you want to go.”

Shuttles like those planned at Walt Disney World “are in a sense going to demonstrate to the public that (robot vehicles) really work.”

Walt Disney World is comprised of several theme parks covering vast territory near Orlando. Hundreds of buses, boats and parking lot trams transport park guests and employees. There are also three monorails.

Some Disney watchers see driverless shuttles recapturing the futuristic vision set when monorails were introduced at Disneyland in the early 1960s and Walt Disney World in the early 1970s.

Driverless vehicles “would make transportation at Disney World cool again,” columnist John Frost wrote on the Disney Blog in 2013.

No one’s sure how big the market for autonomous shuttles might be. Driverless technology and app-based on-demand transportation are expected to transform public transportation. But huge questions remain unanswered. Will cities go driverless with their big buses? Or will those be gradually replaced by smaller shuttles driving dynamic custom routes, based on demand?

Kornhauser said transit officials are just beginning to come to grips with such questions.

In the meantime, companies are out to grab a big piece of whatever market does emerge.

Local Motors is building its Olli driverless shuttle on 3-D printers at a factory in National Harbor, Md. It has shuttles running in Berlin and the Washington, D.C., area.

In January, the company demonstrated the Olli on the Las Vegas Strip during the Consumer Electronics Show, and it plans a more permanent deployment.


Twitter: @russ1mitchell
 

Bolt

Well-Known Member
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Driverless shuttles aren't too crazy to me. If they can use the same technology used for trains/subways, why not this. I assume they'd utilize existing tram lanes and make barriers for people to not walk in their routes.
 

SomeInternetGuy

Well-Known Member
I was thinking more of the strapping in of the ecv
Yeah, like Bolt said, these definitely sound like they're going to be parking lot trams, which don't carry ECVs anyway. And like the article says, the state of current driverless technology works best in well mapped areas on simple paths and at lower speeds. We're still many years away from driverless busses being able to drive on public roads full of guests.
 
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Corey P

Well-Known Member
They could be more then parking lot trams. Auto pilot is relatively easy now when you have a set route with little or no other traffic.

Taking a bus full of people out on to a public highway is a totally different matter and is not easy to do.
 

egg

Well-Known Member
Sounds like an accident waiting to happen. I think autonomous vehicles are going to become popular in the future, but today, I don't know if they're ready for the big stage.

“They should be boring,” said Alain Kornhauser, an autonomous vehicle expert at Princeton University. “Riding in an elevator is boring. It takes you where you want to go.”
That's one way to look at life and the world.

Maybe this guy should ride the Freedom Tower elevator. Look up a video of it, it's spectacular.
Should they have gone with a normal, boring elevator instead?

Currently, there are no plans for driverless shuttles at Disneyland in Anaheim, according to the sources. The reason is unclear, but Florida puts few restrictions on driverless vehicle deployment, while California is overhauling regulations that have been criticized by industry as unnecessarily heavy handed.
Maybe it has nothing to do with regulations, but rather, the fact that Disneyland is not spread out like WDW is. Most things are within walking distance.
 

MisterPenguin

Rumormonger
Premium Member
The Orlando Sentinel posted the same story.

A lot of the issues of driverless shuttles has been discussed in this thread: http://forums.wdwmagic.com/threads/autonomous-cars-at-disney-world.926445/ Short version:
  • It'll be a lawsuit nightmare!! Not any more than our current system with human drivers getting into more accidents.
  • Think of all the liability issues!!: Two words: auto insurance. Just like it is now. Only, they'll have to pay out less. Besides, manufacturers are already stepping up to accept liability, plus, there will probably be the cars' "black box" to determine fault.
  • AI isn't perfect: Doesn't have to be. Only needs to be significantly better than humans.
  • AI can't make good ethical decisions (choosing who to crash into?!): Neither do humans in the split second they have to decide what to do.
I'm sure this is what @marni1971 has been hinting at. When asked whether it was rail or monorails or more gondolas, he said no. When I asked if it was driverless... silence. Always a dead giveaway. :D

Also, this is no surprise given that WDW is about to start up a pilot Uber-like service that they control. They obviously want to get the system of app and cars and routes and usage data down before automating it completely.
 

MisterPenguin

Rumormonger
Premium Member
As someone who has experienced the "wonder" of a self-driving Uber in Pittsburgh, HELL NO! Two miles an hour, stopping every ten feet, and turning the wrong way on a one way street. Well, maybe Disney is thinking of these as a new thrill ride.
The difference for WDW is that these won't be city streets. WDW will make sure all their roads have appropriate markings. The routes will be limited to those roads WDW knows are OK for the driverless cars. And as mentioned, dedicated bus lanes are being put in, and maybe we'll see more.

And no snow.
 
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