RAPID receives financial support until 2024 | News

Arlington Rideshare, Automation and Payment Integration Demonstration – the city’s self-driving rideshare pilot program – has been successful and received funding to continue services for at least two years.

The North Texas Central Council of Governments recently approved a funding request that would fund RAPID until at least 2024, according to the city’s press release. Initial funding for the program ended on March 18.

The service was unveiled by the city in March 2021, according to precedents Shorthorn reports. Arlington, UTA, Via Rideshare and May Mobility have partnered for this program, which was to last one year.

The service was introduced because a community stakeholder group, tasked with studying Arlington’s transportation needs, recommended an on-demand ridesharing service in 2016-2017, said Ann Foss, senior planner at the office. strategic initiatives of the city of Arlington.

The city wants residents to be comfortable with automated technology as it grows in popularity, Foss said. RAPID is the third autonomous vehicle service in Arlington.

The first project was a self-driving ride-sharing pilot program in the Entertainment District named Milo, according to precedents Shorthorn reports. It opened to the public in August 2017.

Milo only lasted a year before the city replaced it with a partnership with Drive.ai to launch an autonomous artificial intelligence vehicle in October 2018. Drive.ai also lasted a year.

“I think most of the feedback is really positive. People appreciate the [RAPID] service,” Foss said. “They want to see it continue, they want to see it develop.”

While RAPID vehicles are autonomous, a human operator stays behind the wheel during trips in case they need to intervene, Foss said. The service operates in a complex environment with heavy pedestrian activity, cyclists and unprotected bends.

When the program first launched, the vehicles were fully autonomous 60-70% of the time, she said. By the end of 2021, vehicles were autonomous more than 80% of the time.

The RAPID fleet operates in downtown Arlington and on the UTA campus, according to the city’s press release. Rides can be ordered on demand via the Via app or by calling a number.

Michael Vaccarino, Via’s North America partnerships manager, said the company has been working with Arlington to provide on-demand transit service since 2017.

Downtown Arlington is the perfect backdrop for a program like RAPID because the region has the ongoing investment and innovation activity it needs, Vaccarino said.

He said the service operates in a diverse field. It’s a solid testing ground to receive a wide range of opinions on how the service might work.

Via’s software handles the reservation, routing and assignment of passengers and vehicles for the service, Vaccarino said.

“When AVs [autonomous vehicles] deployed as part of public transit, as part of public transit and scaled effectively, they can be a truly accessible and convenient form of transportation,” Vaccarino said.

RAPID has provided 28,000 rides since launch and averaged 800 to 900 rides per week, he said.

Greg Hladik, executive director of auxiliary services at UTA, said in an email that UTA students make the majority of the 28,000 rides offered during the pilot year.

Arlington is an innovator for autonomous vehicle pilot programs, Hladik said. RAPID integrated the city’s public transport program into the UTA mobility network while allowing researchers to participate and share results with the transport community.

“It was very promising to see how the student body responded to these self-driving shuttles and adopted them for their daily commuting needs in the service area,” Hladik said in a city press release. “This pilot has taught us that there are several applications on a college campus to integrate self-driving technology into the traditional campus mobility network.”

RAPID has a 98% on-time rate, with 80% of passengers calling it convenient and 90% saying they would use the service again in the future, Vaccarino said.

Criminal justice official Ethan Brinkman said he uses RAPID several times a month to run errands around Arlington.

“Since Texas has, like, no public transit, I think that’s definitely a huge plus, especially for college students,” Brinkman said.

Via believes that self-driving vehicles will only have an impact if they are accessible and integrated into mass transit systems, Vaccarino said.

Although he uses the service often, Brinkman said he sometimes experiences delays of up to 20 to 30 minutes. Other issues are the inconvenient pick up and drop off locations.

However, RAPID’s affordability outweighs the potential downsides, he said.

Vaccarino said what students expect from different forms of private transportation like Uber and Lyft should be what they expect from mass transit systems.

“[Student’s] taxpayers’ money goes to public transit, and so they are the ones who should help push for the kind of change and adoption of technology that their transit agencies can and should use,” he said. -he declares.

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