The technology to power connected cities exists today—and continued growth is predicted. Will all our cities soon be connected? Or do hurdles stand in the way? Perhaps one of the biggest challenge will be overcoming regulatory hurdles that could slow the progress down.

Technavio says the autonomous bus market, as an example, will grow by 2364 units during 2020 and 2024, which is a growth rate of 32%. At the end of last year, IDTechEx also predicted that that the robotaxi services will become a $2.5 trillion market by 2040. Further, if you were at CES earlier this year, then you know intelligent transportation systems and autonomous vehicles were big trends at the show and it is a topic that has been covered in depth over on Constructech TV.

The challenge is in many cases current local, state, and federal regulations for most commercial shuttle operations require the safety attendant to be inside the cab of the vehicle. However, many transit operators are looking to change these regulations in order to allow remote attendants to oversee system safety operations. This change will be integral to the viability of low-speed shuttles.

While many existing commercial applications of low-speed shuttles use onboard safety attendants to monitor the safety inside and outside the vehicle, Robotic Research plans to start testing autonomous low-speed shuttles that are unmanned. The company says the first step is to have the attendants in fixed on-site locations with the future goal to move attendants to an offsite safety monitoring facility.

Robotic Research has been developing and testing unmanned autonomous operations for a wide range of vehicles for nearly a decade. The company’s AutoDrive autonomy kit is platform agnostic and can be retrofitted to vehicles of all sizes, from small, portable robots to large trucks and buses. The system provides autonomous functionality on surfaces ranging from urban-improved roads to off-road terrain, all while the vehicle is collecting and analyzing data to better enhance the future of autonomous vehicles and transportation.

Further, it provides autonomy kits that fully automate logistics convoy trucks for the U.S. government and several of its allied nation partners—and nearly 100 trucks have already been delivered. Robotic Research’s technology also provides automation to one of the largest international shuttle providers and U.S. manufacturer of commercial buses. The company’s AutoDrive kit also supports various autonomy programs in commercial and government sectors.

The tests for these low-speed shuttles have included operations with no safety attendant on board, with a single operator monitoring three unmanned vehicles.

In order for autonomous transportation in cities to truly take off and solve the first/last mile problem, which is the distance between a traveler’s origin or destination and a transit station or stop, government and technology companies must determine a safe way to have a truly autonomous vehicle—without an attendant behind the wheel. Time will tell if this testing of autonomous shuttles will yield fruitful results.

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