There is going to be a new way to get around downtown Orlando, Florida, and it’s not going to require any human drivers. Starting later this month, an electric, self-driving shuttle will whisk passengers around a 1-mile (1.6 km) loop in the downtown area for no charge, Orlando officials said this week. The eight-passenger shuttle service is part of a six-month trial for the central Florida city. Transportation planners hope to use data gathered from the pilot program to guide the city’s future transportation strategy. “With the expansion of autonomous vehicle shuttles into our neighborhoods, we can converge cutting-edge technology with new mobility solutions to further redefine the way our community moves,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. The autonomous shuttle service is operated by Beep Inc., an Orlando-based company that already operates a similar service in a planned community near Orlando International Airport.
Beep’s experience extends beyond Florida with other deployments throughout the country including the first autonomous shuttles at Yellowstone National Park in June 2021. “What’s amazing is that we are monitoring the safe operation of those shuttles from Lake Nona at our headquarters in the Town Center,” says Joe Moye, Beep CEO. “We’re looking to provide an autonomous reality for people who are looking to replicate the Lake Nona experience, which is innovative, safe and sustainable transportation.” The sustainability aspect is what Beep has found to be key in conveying a sense of purpose and ownership to their passengers. Since launch, Beep has eliminated the equivalent of more than 16,500 vehicle trips from roads, which amounts to a significant carbon footprint impact. “When our passengers learn about their direct impact on helping the environment, they feel an additional sense of purpose to the program, which is what has helped us grow so quickly and develop additional partnerships that have contributed to our success,” says Joe Moye, Beep CEO. There’s more growth on the horizon for the program, with plans to grow the fleet with new smart infrastructure to support the future network.