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NJ Transit wants to give self-driving buses a try

DATE POSTED:October 9, 2019

On Tuesday, NJ Transit announced that they will be giving self-driving buses a try.

NJ Transit sent a proposal to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for a $950,000 grant to try out three self-driving shuttles for a few years. 

NJ Transit shared a tweet showcasing the new buses, which read, "NJ Transit Looks to The Future of Self-Driving Vehicles: NJT presented local municipalities and community-based transportation groups with their first glimpse at autonomous, self-driving shuttles at the NJ Council on Special Transportation Expo in Edison." 

These shuttles can hold up to 15 people and travel as quick as 15 miles per hour. The shuttles are also 100 percent electric. To make this program a reality, NJ Transit has partnered with Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority and Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure. 

The first step of the process will be to test them on a closed-course on a 40-acre site in Fort Monmouth. The second phase involves permit allocations, which would allow the self-driving buses on public roads, and let them carry customers on the Fort Monmouth grounds. 

NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett said in a press release that, “Autonomous vehicles have the potential to add significant value to our service.” 

Corbett added, “The ‘need’ is also there ⁠— especially for NJ Transit customers. Despite low gas prices and declining nationwide rail ridership trends, NJ Transit’s rail ridership went up approximately three percent from fiscal year 2018 to 2019. Our customers are clearly looking for ‘first mile, last mile’ options, and that’s what this pilot program is all about ⁠— exploring options for our customers, staying ahead of the curve, and studying the benefits and challenges of this rapidly-advancing technology in real-world scenarios.” 

NJ Transit hopes that if they get the grant, they will be able to use these innovations to better serve customers with lower mobility options such as folks with disabilities, senior citizens and more.

The FTA is expected to release the recipient of the grants this winter.

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