Arlington to begin testing driverless vans

- The city of Arlington will be testing driverless vans soon. It's a way to get people around the city’s growing sports and entertainment district.

Mayor Jeff Williams and city staffer Alicia Winkelblech joined Good Day Thursday morning to explain. The Drive.ai automated vehicles will initially operate in a pre-defined service area near Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium.

“So if someone wants to come enjoy a sporting event or a concert they’ll be able to check out the driverless vehicle for that. We’ll also be offering day-to-day non-event service for someone who maybe works in the area and wants to go grab lunch,” Winkelblech said.

Some of the bright-orange vans will be on a circular route. And on non-event days, Winkelblech said people will be able to use a smartphone app to request a ride.

The same company, Drive.ai, already has vans in Frisco. But those are confined to a business park and mostly go from one office building to another. Arlington will be the first city in Texas to put the automated vans on public streets.

“The vehicles are here and we are getting a jump on letting our citizens experience it,” Mayor Williams said. “We started with our first generation automated vehicle that was running through our trails and parking lots there and we were the first city in the United States to do that. And you may remember in January we launched a technology-based ride share program that has been extremely successful.  Now we’re entering in this next phase of driver AI. In our city we want to let everyone know that we are moving ahead on transportation.”

The vans will go into service on Oct. 1 and will be free to ride. Arlington received a federal grant to help pay for the service and the general tax revenue will help pay for the rest.

“But it’s amazingly cost-effective. The difference between spending $50 million a mile for light rail and spending a few hundred thousand here to be able to have this kind of convenient service is so key,” Williams said.

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