JTA testing driverless shuttles to potentially replace downtown Skyway

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is testing driverless shuttles with the goal of one day replacing the downtown Skyway.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is testing driverless shuttles with the goal of one day replacing the downtown Skyway.

JTA built a test track in December near Metropolitan Park, and plans to test there for the next couple ofyears.

Many view driverless vehicles as the future and JTA passenger Breana Ringole is fine with that.

Content Continues Below

“I see everything is driverless,” Ringole said.  “I’m actually going to be a trucker, so they’ve been talking about having those as well that don’t have drivers, really.  We’re just going to be sitting in the back, pretty much.”

On Tuesday, JTA showed off the Easy Mile Gen-2, a driverless shuttle that uses sensors, GPS and other technologies to map out its course and go, reacting to its environment along the way.

JTA said years from now, the Ultimate Urban Circulator will replace the Skyway and better connect passengers.

Action News Jax asked Brad Thoburn of JTA if going autonomous will eventually cost Jacksonville jobs.

“Technology enhances productivity and it creates new opportunities,” Thoburn said.  “So our view is that we want to take this technology and figure out how we can enhance mobility in the community, and whenever you do something like that, it creates new needs for new jobs and new opportunities.”

An autonomous Uber car struck and killed someone last week in Arizona, so many have concerns about not having someone behind the wheel.

“These vehicles are geared to go in lower speed, very sensitive to movements around them, so what we'll do is we make sure that we have all the safety precautions in place,” Thoburn said.

Ringole said she isn’t worried.

“I don’t think it’s that dangerous, and seeing the drivers out here, it might be a little bit better anyway,” Ringole said.

JTA is opening the shuttles for the public to ride during One Spark April 6 and 7.