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The City Journals

Driverless shuttle, nicknamed Tom, now on Utah roads

Oct 14, 2019 04:25PM ● By Cassie Goff

The University of Utah campus has been the most recent workplace for the state’s new autonomous shuttle nicknamed Tom. Tom will be visiting a variety of different communities from now until spring 2020. The shuttle is driverless, which means there’s no need for either a steering wheel or pedals. However, there currently is a human monitor on board helping to navigate and provide information to riders. (University of Utah)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

We live in the future. 

Utah’s first autonomous shuttle will be visiting a variety of different communities from now until spring 2020. The shuttle is driverless, which means there’s no need for either a steering wheel or pedals. However, there currently is a human monitor on board helping to navigate and provide information to riders. 

The autonomous shuttle will be transporting students and faculty on the University of Utah campus until October. Specifically, the route has been from the Student Life Center, past Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and the Language and Communication building, to the Union building. 

During October (specific dates have yet to be announced), you can find the autonomous shuttle at the Mountain America Expo Center at 9575 E. State St., in Sandy.

The autonomous shuttle (nicknamed Tom) has been brought to Utah as part of a partnership between the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). Tom was manufactured by a company called Easy Mile, a French startup and is the EZ10 model. The estimated cost of the autonomous shuttle project was around $800,000.

Tom and other EZ10 models can hold six to 12 passengers. Over the past three months, as the autonomous shuttle has been transported to various locations, more than 3,000 Utahns have experienced being a passenger. Some of those passengers have reported that the shuttle moves too slow, as Tom’s top speed is 15 mph. 

One of the more endearing traits of Tom’s is that he rings a bell that sounds like it should be on a trolley car.  

The shuttle has a predetermined route, just like many of UTA’s public transportation options throughout the valley. The intention behind Tom is to help funnel people to existing public transportation routes, not replace them.

Since April, there has only been one reported incident. On July 16, the shuttle detected an obstacle and stopped abruptly. This caused CBS affiliate Gene Petrie to slip off his seat. He suffered bruising and lacerations on his face. After the incident, UDOT immediately pulled the shuttle out of service to perform some diagnostics.  

This project began in early March, when the Utah State Legislature unanimously approved House Bill 101, allowing autonomous cars to be on Utah roads. According to UDOT and UTA, the benefits of autonomous shuttles are safety, economic and societal benefits, efficiency and convenience, and mobility and access. Ideally, the autonomous shuttle can eliminate most of the human error associated with driving. 

UDOT and UTA are asking for feedback on the autonomous shuttle. They want to know what people think of autonomous vehicles, how it could be applied in Utah, and what the experience was like riding the shuttle. To provide feedback, visit avshuttleutah.com/feedback. 

For more information, check out UDOT’s or UTA’s social media by using the hashtag #avshuttleutah on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through @UtahDOT