The December 7th meeting of the city of San Jose’s Smart Cities and Services Improvements Committee featured an update regarding San Jose’s Autonomous Vehicle RFI issued last June. Jill North, Innovation Program Manager in the San Jose Department of Transportation, called the RFI a framework for engaging the private sector in testing and understanding the role of autonomous transportation. The objectives of the RFI were to:
- “promote safety of all users
- reduce environmental impacts of vehicle miles traveled
- improve mobility for all
- support a balanced transportation system
- create livable communities
- and obtain data that is critical for the planning of the transportation system”
Out of the 31 responses, the task team (consisting of the city of San Jose, VTA and ProspectSV) identified four respondents whose proposals merited further discussion. Two of those require further scoping, while the other two are moving towards active demonstration projects:
- Project 1 – (8:29 in the above video) Circulator-route projects focused on the Alum Rock and Tamien transit centers. This would be focused on “First-Mile/Last-Mile” connections. As Mayor Liccardo pointed out in his question to Ms. North, it will be critical to do outreach to the commuities in these area, as they may not be the digital-natives that is often the focus of technology disruption. This route could start as early as the summer 2018.
- Project 2 (11:15 in the above video) – An on-demand route using “luxury” shuttles between Diridon and Santana Row, that could potentially feature stops at places like San Jose City College and the Valley Medical Center. There would be a ride-hailing component to this project, which is expected for trial sometime in 2019.
The route that would have seemed to be the most obvious that wasn’t addressed by any of the respondents was between Mineta Airport and downtown. The explanation for this is that a level of trust of the technology and that requires time to develop.
North explained that one benefit the city is looking forward to is the collection of data about the very roads these autonomous data collecting machines will gather. One of the surprises, according to Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager Civic Innovation and Digital Strategy, is that autonomous vehicles are not as ready for prime time as when they started the process. Echoing Alain Kornhauser (see Tesla, Not Self Driving and Paint Good Lines) , he suggests that one of the most important infrastructure improvements the city can make is good road striping.
North suggested that the next step is to create terms of an agreement with the entities that had proposed the two projects. Unfortunately, North wouldn’t divulge the companies driving the two projects, given where they are in the process.
It is heartening to see the progress and it reinforces Bloomberg’s recent article showing San Jose as one of the leaders in the deployment of a technology that will be as transformative as the Internet.