National Team Awarded Federal Grant to Build Innovative Autonomous New Transit Vehicle

October 2, 2020

For Immediate Release

Pasadena, CA — CALSTART announced it is part of a team selected by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to implement an Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) grant totaling $2.3 million to build and test a first of its kind zero-emission and autonomous transit vehicle under a project named Enhancing Life with Automated Transportation for Everyone (ELATE).

The team led by the Western Reserve Transit Authority (WRTA) in Youngstown, Ohio, and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in California will deploy a small platform, SAE Level 4, and zero-emission autonomous transit vehicle. CALSTART led the facilitated development of detailed specifications for the vehicle, with a focus on technology, crashworthiness and accessibility.

“With this vehicle we will be demonstrating the capability of a zero-emission vehicle to reduce congestion cost-effectively. We are seeking to create a new tool for transit operators to serve the public,” said CALSTART President and CEO, John Boesel.

Led by its Midwest Office, CALSTART organized a cohort of 13 transit properties who identified the need and developed the specifications for this next generation, purpose-built, transit autonomous vehicle.

“We recognize that for automated transit vehicles to move beyond pilot demonstrations and into commercial deployments, the conversation needed to be transit operator driven. The participation of our transit partners in the development of the specifications means we are producing a vehicle that is focused on meeting their needs,” said Maureen Marshall, CALSTART’s Midwest Director and manager of the project.

WRTA and the VTA will test the ability of the autonomous vehicles to provide more efficient and cost-effective service under different climates and operating conditions. The vehicles are expected to carry between nine to fifteen passengers and will feature a safety operator or concierge on board.

Both transit partners on this project have strategic plans to improve their transit operations, provide better service to the community, and do so while deploying the next generation technologies working towards having a fully built-out autonomous electric vehicle fleet by 2026.  WRTA’s vehicle will travel along several defined commercial streets in mixed traffic, navigating along with bus traffic and allow for curbside pick-up and drop-off at bus stops and transit centers. VTA’s vehicle will travel along several defined local residential and commercial streets in mixed traffic along two moderate-speed arterial corridors in mixed traffic allowing for pick-up and drop-off at designated stops in campuses, bus stops, and transit centers.

Information gathered from this test project will be shared with transit partners from around the country, with a view toward encouraging greater use of public transit and ensuring it is accessible to all.

WRTA’s autonomous vehicle is expected to be deployed in 2022.

CALSTART appreciated the support for the proposal from Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), as well as Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17) and Tim Ryan (OH-13).

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A national nonprofit consortium with offices in New York, Michigan, Colorado and California and partners world-wide, CALSTART works with 250+ member company and agency innovators to build a prosperous, efficient and clean high-tech transportation industry. We knock out barriers to modernization and the adoption of clean vehicles. CALSTART is changing transportation for good.

CONTACT: Katharine Burnham, 202.415.5742, kburnham@calstart.org