Autonomous Vehicle

Beeps deploys electric-autonomous shuttle at Mississippi State University

STARKVILLE, Miss.— Mississippi State University is introducing an electric-autonomous passenger shuttle system pilot program to campus and the community this fall, demonstrating its commitment to technology, innovation, and research.

With deployment by Beep, Inc., a provider of autonomous and electric shared mobility solutions, the system will be the first of its kind in the state and in the Southeastern Conference, and is designed for safety, sustainability, accessibility, and efficiency.

In September, a pilot project will introduce two shuttles capable of seating up to 11 passengers each, which will include an attendant. The project aims to evaluate the integration of autonomous vehicles with other modes of campus transportation. Moreover, this pilot program will use electric, self-driving shuttles to take students between the main campus, key housing areas, and popular entertainment destinations.

“We are excited to announce this special project which is going through several layers of approval, including the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” said Jeremiah Dumas, MSU executive director of transportation. “Safety is the highest priority, as it is with any method of transportation,” he added, explaining the vehicles will not be allowed to operate on roads signed at more than 25 mph and are equipped with AI-enabled remote human supervision and self-governance. Although they will be self-driving, Dumas said each will have a full-time attendant on board.

“This trained staff member can operate the vehicle and assist passengers when needed and serve as an ambassador to provide information. Similar vehicles have been in use at Yellowstone, in the Orlando, Florida metropolitan area, and near the Braves Stadium in Atlanta, at the Honolulu airport and beyond,” Dumas said. “Our extensive research convinced us to invest in this project.”

Beep will provide the autonomous mobility solutions, services and electric vehicles to MSU throughout the tentative pilot period of Sept. 1-Nov. 30.

In addition to piloting how the vehicles meet campus needs, the program also will gather information—research data informing transportation planning in rural-urban environments.

“MSU is a natural choice to lead in applying this type of technology on campus and in the local town-and-gown community context. This is because we are already a national and global leader in the realm of unmanned and autonomous vehicles,” Dumas emphasized. “MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and Raspet Flight Research Laboratory are doing research on autonomous, remote vehicles.” He said he hopes for the chance to partner with other institutions to form a research consortium and expand the study period to further test use of autonomous vehicles in rural-urban settings.

The university contracted with Beep this past December and is conducting the development phase of the pilot program this spring, mapping and creating three-dimensional scans of routes in preparation for the fall deployment. Moreover, the process includes identifying parking and charging locations and determining routes and stop locations. Beep currently is using lidar technology, which uses light detection and ranging for precise measurements, to finalize required digital maps.

“We absolutely see this as a long-term operational opportunity for these shuttles to be part of our daily solution. Our ultimate goal is to understand the role an autonomous mobility system such as this can play on campus. Do they work on campus where there are a lot of riders, or do we need to look at a longer route with fewer riders? We don’t know yet, and we want to see what we find out,” Dumas said. “Our extensive research convinced us to invest in this project.Our extensive research convinced us to invest in this project”

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