New York Tests First Autonomous Shuttle System

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Elon Musk boasts Tesla cars will have a fully functioning self-driving feature completed this year. He claims that by 2020, the system will be so advanced, “you’ll be able to snooze in the driver’s seat while it takes you from your parking lot to wherever you’re going.”

  • Brooklyn Navy Yard inaugurates New York’s first autonomous shuttle.
  • Partnering with Optimus Ride, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation will test out six autonomous shuttles. 
  • While New York has legislation in place to test autonomous vehicles, the shuttles won’t come under the jurisdiction of the DMV because they will be operating on private property. 

Maybe Musk has information the rest of the experts don’t have because most think we are decades away from handing over the reins to cars. One of the main problems is that for autonomous cars to be trustworthy, they need common sense. Unfortunately, no one has figured out how to teach that yet.

The first step in reaching fully autonomous vehicles

While cars haven’t reached Level 5 autonomy, they have advanced to the point where they can at least be tested in a closed, pre-determined loop, which marks Level 4 automation. For a breakdown of all the levels, click here.

New York City decided to try out an autonomous shuttle within the Brooklyn Navy Yard to bring passengers from its NYC Ferry stop around the complex and back. Partnering with Optimus Ride, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation will put six autonomous vehicles (AVs) into service.

Driving in an approximately 1.1-mile loop, the cars will follow a route between Dock 72, where the ferry docks, and the Navy Yard’s entrance at Flushing Avenue and Cumberland Street. On weekends, the shuttle will take passengers from the dock to Building 77, the complex’s new food hall. Operating between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10pm, the shuttle service expects over 500 passengers a day.

Although true Level 4 autonomy doesn’t require a human overlooking the system, Optimus will have a driver there to take over steering duties should something go awry. To further ensure safety, the shuttle will also move at a very slow speed.


New York adopting an autonomous shuttle for testing shows a big vote of confidence for the technology. Although we’re not ready to make the leap to “snooze in the driver’s seat,” success at the Brooklyn Navy Yard will get us one step closer.

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