Autonomous Vehicles for Private Communities
January 9, 2020 | Company Blog
While autonomous vehicles have not yet reached mainstream adoption on public streets, they are already at work on private developments, including mixed-use communities, industrial sites, business parks, university campuses, and more. Private developments offer exciting use cases for optimized, highly efficient autonomous vehicles. The vehicles can transport employees, visitors, commuters, and even packages in ways that reduce traffic, make transport more accessible, and reduce the need for expensive parking infrastructure.
One example of this use case for Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) can be found in Orlando County, Florida, at the planned community of Lake Nona. Built and operated by the Tavistock Development Company, Lake Nona spans some 17 square miles and includes homes, businesses, retail centers, medical facilities, schools, and more. Tavistock uses AVs to take residents, visitors, commuters, shoppers, and others around the development car-free, reducing traffic, and ultimately, for Tavistock, reducing the need for car-centric real estate.
AVs are a good fit for private developments like Lake Nona for several reasons. First, the roads aren’t as complicated as public streets and present fewer navigation challenges. Second, speed limits are lower, which helps to lower the risk of accidents. The communities also feature lower-density traffic overall, further enhancing safety. Finally, people in these communities, especially retirees, like to be mobile without driving.
Also, to reassure passengers that might be nervous about autonomous transport, an attendant is on board the shuttles, ready to answer questions passengers might have and to take over control of the vehicle if needed. The shuttles are in constant communication with the Beep command center in Lake Nona Town Center. The command center continuously monitors the movement and operation of the shuttles and can communicate with the attendant at any time. Each shuttle is equipped with cameras so that the command center team can see outside and inside the shuttle.
Vehicles alone, however, don’t provide the services that efficiently move people from Point A to Point B. Beep uses Bestmile’s Fleet Orchestration Platform. Beep first used the Bestmile Platform to configure the service and, since launching September 2019, uses the platform to supervise the fleet and to monitor its growing network. Bestmile enables Beep to continually optimize all aspects of fleet performance and service delivery. The Bestmile Platform also provides data analytics and reports on system performance and uses machine learning for continuous improvement.
Beep plans to operate fleets throughout the state from its Lake Nona command center, offering similar services. Because the Bestmile Platform is cloud-based and can host multiple fleets, Beep can monitor and manage them all from one place.
Communication with the community, elected officials, and authorities has been critical to the success of the service. Beep conducted multiple training sessions for first responders before launching the service to ensure that police and paramedics are prepared to come to the aid of passengers if needed.
AVs on private developments offer strong indirect financial benefits for the developer. Tavistock offers the Lake Nona service for free now. The indirect economic benefits include improved traffic; easier access to restaurants, shops, offices, and homes; resident and visitor satisfaction, and in the longer-term, the ability to develop more real estate for people instead of vehicles. Beep also offers onboard advertising, both digital and via signage on the buses, as new revenue streams.
The Lake Nona service has experienced rapid growth, carrying more than 6,000 passengers in its first two months of service. In addition to delighting residents and visitors with an innovative, car-free alternative to driving, Tavistock and Beep are gaining valuable insights into the technical and social challenges and requirements to delivering a successful autonomous service, insights that will accelerate the deployment of services in the future.