Autonomous Vehicle

JTA & FSCJ launch autonomous shuttles on downtown campus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (February 20, 2024) – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) and Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) announced the launch of autonomous vehicles (AV) on FSCJ’s downtown campus. An autonomous shuttle, provided by Beep, operates on the downtown campus, offering free rides to students, faculty, and visitors. The project aims to improve campus mobility. It also seeks to provide a glimpse into the future of transportation. Additionally, it aims to offer valuable data for future autonomous vehicle deployments.

“Our partnership with FSCJ and our industry partners Beep and Oxa goes beyond merely deploying autonomous vehicles on campus. It marks a significant stride towards enhancing mobility in Jacksonville, making it more efficient and safer,” said JTA CEO Nat Ford. “This initiative is a testament to years of hard work and collaboration between the private and public sector, including the U.S. Department of Transportation. We are eager for the FSCJ campus and the wider Jacksonville community to experience these AVs firsthand. They can see the benefits these vehicles bring as we prepare for the launch of Phase 1 of the U2C program, the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, in 2025.”

In 2020, JTA and FSCJ executed a joint Memorandum of Understanding. They aimed to explore ways to educate, transport, and improve roadway and pedestrian safety through enhanced mobility options in the City of Jacksonville.

The shuttles operated by Beep, a Florida-based provider of autonomous shared mobility solutions, connect students, faculty, and visitors across the segmented FSCJ Downtown Jacksonville campus. They incorporate self-driving software from Oxa, a global leader in autonomous vehicle software. Moreover, the route spans one mile, connecting the Advanced Technology Center with Buildings A, B, C, and D. The launch of these electric and autonomous platforms builds upon the years of testing and validation done by JTA at the FSCJ Cecil North Campus test and learn track and at the Armsdale Test and Learn Center; both facilities devoted to evaluating the best of breed autonomous technologies ahead of Phase 1 of the U2C, the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, in 2025.

“The project at FSCJ is Beep’s third university campus deployment. It marks the beginning of our collective efforts with our partners in the JTA U2C project to transform mobility and accessibility while improving roadway safety and reducing carbon emissions in the City of Jacksonville,” said Beep CEO, Joe Moye. “Community feedback and practical experience from these pilots is vital for the safe advancement of autonomous technology. This deepens our industry’s understanding of what is required to improve the development and deployment of these technologies. It also aims to change how people move and connect to key services within our communities. “The AV launch synergizes with FSCJ’s National Science Foundation grant. This grant fosters the design and implementation of innovative curricula. Moreover, it aims to prepare students for the future workforce in the important areas of autonomous technology and electric vehicle platforms.

“As the community’s college, we are committed to anticipating areas of opportunity. We develop ideas to address them, all while elevating the workforce of tomorrow. This partnership is a perfect complement to our National Science Foundation grant. We are excited for the progress we know it will bring about for our students and neighbors throughout the service area,” said FSCJ President John Avendano, Ph.D. “Our automotive technology program representatives are regularly serving as experts in their fields, presenting at national conferences. They are also passing on their expertise to support policy setting for industry workforce certification. Additionally, they are helping prepare even more educators and students across the country for what’s next.”

The FSCJ shuttles’ autonomous capability is delivered by Oxa Driver software, which has safety as a key design principle.

“Travelling in a self-driving vehicle is an exciting experience but first and foremost riders must be safe,” said Gavin Jackson, CEO, Oxa. “To ensure passenger safety, all shuttles driven by Oxa have extra sensory perception in comparison to human drivers. Moreover, they are equipped with high fidelity cameras, lidar, and radar delivering 360-degree always-on sensing. Hardware and software systems with built-in redundancy support these vehicle superpowers. An extensive virtual testing regime prepared the test shuttle so well that it ran autonomously on its first lap of the FSCJ route.”

Expanding the testing of autonomous vehicles in FSCJ’s Downtown Campus. This will also continue to prepare the community for how autonomous technology will enhance the quality of life for all who learn, live, and work in the City of Jacksonville.

“Improving transportation is not just about connecting places. It’s about connecting people, fostering economic growth, and opening up new possibilities in improving the quality of life for Jacksonville and its residents, present and future,” said Debbie Buckland, JTA Board Chair. “The U2C program will be a catalyst for progress, bringing us closer as a community. Furthermore, this collaboration with FSCJ is proof of the strength of partnerships and an exciting step toward that goal.”

In 2025, the initial stage of the U2C program will deploy a comprehensive autonomous shuttle system along Bay Street. The entire U2C program comprises three main phases. The 10-mile transportation network connects key downtown Jacksonville corridors, including the Sports/Entertainment District, the Downtown Northbank, and Southbank. It also extends into surrounding neighborhoods such as Brooklyn, Riverside, San Marco, and Springfield. Moreover, the U2C program will ultimately provide mobility for all. It does this by extending access to goods, services, entertainment, and jobs in this critical urban hub along Jacksonville’s riverfront.

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