The future is here

Electric autonomous vehicle demonstration

Electric autonomous vehicle demonstration

Hennepin County recently partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the City of Minneapolis and other community and agency partners to demonstrate use of the EasyMile EZ10 autonomous shuttle on a two block stretch of the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis.

Thank you for learning with us

Autonomous vehicle technology is not a thing of the future; it’s already here. To make sure we are ready to realize the potential benefits, we are working to learn more about it, like how it could:

  • Enhance connections to transitways
  • Benefit people without cars or people with disabilities
  • Help more people get to more places without relying on a personal vehicle

Earlier this year, on April 28 and 29, we invited you to learn along with us and share your feedback at a public demonstration. Thank you to everyone who came out!

Reliable detection of pedestrians and bicyclists

Staff and volunteers conducted both controlled and uncontrolled tests of the shuttle’s ability to detect people walking, biking and rolling near the shuttle in different scenarios. Staff observed the screen onboard the shuttle that shows when objects are detected. At the same time, other staff outside the shuttle counted the number of people passing or encountering the shuttle, then compared the two numbers.

In all test cases involving people walking, biking and rolling, the shuttle’s sensors were 100 percent accurate.

Other tests were similarly successful with bicycles and pedestrians approaching the shuttle from different angles; cutting in front of it and moving at varying speeds in front of and behind the shuttle.

Another set of tests involved tossing a ball in front of the shuttle at varying distances. The ball was detected every time when thrown and the shuttle responded accordingly. When the same ball was rolled in front of the shuttle, it was not detected.

In a final test, fixed height objects mounted on wheels were pulled in front of the shuttle. Objects with a height of 11.5 inches were reliably detected, while objects that were less than 9.5 inches were not.

Survey results show comfort and optimism

Results of the public survey of riders and trail users indicate the majority of community members who rode the autonomous vehicle enjoyed their experience.

Most of the respondents stated that their experience made them optimistic about the idea of having autonomous vehicles as a form of transportation. One participant wrote, “I didn’t know how the whole thing worked. After experiencing it and hearing about the technology, it made it realistic and attainable.”

Another residents stated, “I knew it was part of the future, but I wasn’t convinced until today.”

See full survey results (PDF).

What’s next?

Hennepin County will continue studying autonomous vehicle technology, and consider how it could impact transportation in our communities. There are many potential applications, benefits, and some pitfalls as well. Connecting more people to high-frequency transit like light rail is one application staff are actively studying.

A possible transit solution for the Midtown Corridor?

Hennepin County purchased the Midtown Corridor in the early 1990s to preserve it for future transit use. Staff will continue to study autonomous shuttles as one option for the corridor along with streetcar, LRT and other types of transit.

Any future transit would operate alongside existing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the currently empty portion of the corridor. It would not replace the Midtown Greenway, which is an invaluable regional amenity.

Learn more about possible transit in the Midtown Corridor.

Shaping the future

The future may be here, but it’s still taking shape. As our region continues to grow, making sure residents can get to their destinations safely and efficiently will require innovative and strategic solutions.

We also know there won’t be a single solution that serves all the diverse needs of our growing population. Hennepin County will continue to work with our partners and communities to shape a transportation system of the future that works for all our 1.2 million residents.