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St. Pete's free self-driving shuttles expected to stay around at least a little longer

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has taken the first step in extending the Autonomous Vehicle Advantage pilot program.
Credit: PSTA

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — St. Pete's free driverless shuttles will be on the roads at least a little while longer.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's board of directors on Wednesday approved a service extension for Autonomous Vehicle Advantage (AVA) to stick around the city until March 28. The extension still requires formal St. Pete City Council approval, but it's on the agenda for the March 4 meeting.

Previously, the fare-less service had been scheduled to end next week.

“Over the last 3 months, AVA has been a great success along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg,” PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller wrote in a statement. “Once approved, we are excited to have AVA continue bringing smiles and rides to residents in the Sunshine City.”  

The all-electric shuttles make up the first fleet of their kind launched by a Florida transit agency in mixed traffic. They are equipped with eight sensors and a GPS system to help drive on their own. PSTA says they react "10 times faster than a human can."

The shuttles cost less than $30 to charge each month.

There is an attendant onboard each one – but just to teach riders about the technology, make sure passengers are doing OK and monitor the shuttle performance. That performance is also watched by specialists at autonomous mobility company Beep’s Global Command Center in Orlando.

The shuttles operate along Bayshore Drive from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Passengers can stop by the St. Pete Pier and other popular attractions.

The shuttles don't go faster than 15 mph, at least during the pilot program. Passengers have to wear seatbelts and face coverings while onboard.

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