Autonomous Shuttle Took 2nd Test Run in Downtown Winter Haven
by James Coulter
Imagine visiting Downtown Winter Haven for the evening. After parking your car, you step inside a small shuttle that takes you where you need to go, whether it’s to a bar, cafe, or comedy club. Afterward, you hop aboard the vehicle once more to return to your car. Oh, and the shuttle is driverless!
For the second time, an autonomous shuttle was test-driven in Downtown Winter Haven. Created and programmed by COAST Autonomous, this small shuttle traveled along a set path along Magnolia Avenue on Friday and Saturday, offering curious onlookers an opportunity to step aboard and give it a ride.
COAST Autonomous, according to its website, “is a self-driving technology company providing mobility solutions to move people and goods at appropriate speeds in urban, industrial, and campus environments. COAST was established to build community by connecting people with mobility solutions that put pedestrians first and give cities back to people.”
Their autonomous vehicle, which fits seven people, uses a combination of onboard cameras and sensors, along with a GPS mapping system, to navigate its programmed route. Its first test run in Winter Haven was hosted last month; however, due to technical difficulties, the vehicle was inoperational but still showcased to the public.
During its second test run last Friday, members from the City of Winter Haven, including the mayor, several city commissioners, and board members from the Chamber of Commerce, took a test ride of the vehicle. Winter Haven was chosen for the test ride due to the town being an ideal city center for such a vehicle, explained Adrian Sussman, President of COAST Autonomous, during its initial test ride last month.
“This is a beautiful city center,” he said. “They are doing an amazing job developing downtown, and we want to be part of that growth with something unique that can benefit the community…When the elevator was invented, it changed the way buildings were designed, you can build buildings that were taller. This technology can change the way you design downtown. You can remove the cars, put them on the outside, and connect them with these types of elevators on wheels. That is the idea, it is creating more walkable cities.”
Amit Narayan Yashwantrao, a Software Developer for COAST Autonomous, applauded the vehicle’s second test run last week. Unlike its initial test run, where it was un-operational, the vehicle operated smoothly with an overall positive result, and they hope to finetune to perform even better, he said. One improvement they seek to implement is changing the color scheme, as its current yellow and black color scheme, absorbs heat during the summer.
“This vehicle is ever-improving,” he said. “As it rides to get feedback, we keep improving it. A vehicle like this is something where everyone knows everybody. It is great way to have because it allows people to get out in the city, it will be a great means to come together.”