Four of the five vehicles are hybrid electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles that can carry up to three passengers. - Photo: Via

Four of the five vehicles are hybrid electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles that can carry up to three passengers.

Photo: Via

The City of Arlington, Texas, in partnership with Via and May Mobility, has launched RAPID, a pilot program that will provide autonomous vehicle rides as part of the city's on-demand public transit network to residents. 

The program, available to riders through the Via app, is the first in the United States to integrate on-demand autonomous vehicles into an existing public transportation service. A fleet of five self-driving vehicles, including a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, is available to book from Monday through Friday for destinations within the RAPID service area, which includes downtown and the University of Texas at Arlington.The goal of the Arlington RAPID project is to provide a blueprint for combining on-demand rideshare and autonomous technologies to develop effective, efficient, safe, and accessible transportation for all riders. In addition to improving public transportation options in Arlington, lessons learned from Arlington RAPID will be shared widely to help other communities throughout the nation seeking to combine rideshare and autonomous technologies.

Via’s technology will power booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment and identification, customer experience, and fleet management, in coordination with May Mobility’s expertise in autonomous vehicle technology. 

May Mobility is providing a fleet of five autonomous vehicles, which comprises four hybrid-electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles that can carry up to three passengers and one Polaris GEM fully electric vehicle that can carry one wheelchair passenger. While the vehicles are self-driving, a trained fleet attendant will be in the driver’s seat at all times to ensure safe operations and to provide customer service for riders.

The RAPID (Rideshare, Automation, and Payment Integration Demonstration) project is conducted with a grant provided by the Federal Transit Administration. Arlington has already managed two successful autonomous vehicle deployments. The Milo off-street pilot program with EasyMile was conducted from August 2017 to August 2018, and the on-street pilot program with drive.ai vehicles was conducted from October 2018 to May 2019.

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