February 16, 2018

Here Comes The Solar-Powered Self-Driving Shuttle Network

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Friday 2 February 2018

by Harmen Pelders


A Floridan town aims to get families to go from owning two, to one, to no cars at all. Eventually the inhabitants (to-be) might even get rid of their driving licence altogether. With the development of its autonomous shuttle network Babcock Ranch premiers as a town and sets an example for future mobility.

Towns and cities world-wide are putting effort into redesigning themselves in an attempt to be more ‘green’, sustainable and future-proof. Most of them however succeed only partially, having to deal with the unruly characteristics and aging infrastructure of urban areas that grew over time. Even with these small scale (and some larger) successes on the sustainability agenda, lists such as ours on the most eco-friendly cities have to be revisited regularly to keep up with the latest developments.

To break with the small scale implementations of sustainable technology real-estate developers Kitson & Partners decided to do things from scratch in Florida. Purchasing a big piece of land in a land preservation deal, they created an opportunity to realize a planned and sustainable community, all the while preserving and restoring most of the ranch its natural surroundings. Being on the drawing board since 2006, Babcock Ranch is just now seeing the light of day.

With the the building of the completely solar-powered town almost complete, the inhabitants to-be can already start preparing themselves for the next ‘first’ and get used to the idea of going grocery shopping by self-driving shuttle. Where the town aims to become the most sustainable living environment world-wide, relying solely on solar-energy throughout the day and making use of a ‘grey water’ network for irrigation, it also pushes further in the autonomous technology and sharing economy. Through a collaboration with Transdev the community will be provided by a network of bright red shuttles of multiple sizes that can be used in an Uber-esque manner. An app will allow the community to use them as an on-demand public transport system.

With the expanding of the network from last November on, the community aims to realize a gas-fueled vehicle-free town in the future. Maybe even more at the foreront of currently much-debated issues is the aim to have the network operate autonomous. Considering that self-driving vehicles have been first tested in factory environments, then took it to the streets in artificial villages like the Mcity Test Facility and now  Babcock Ranch – as a living-lab situation – this might be the second to last step in the integration of autonomous vehicles in cities worldwide. For now the Transdev shuttles just drive Babcock Ranch inhabitants-to-be to the model homes on site and the ranch is still accessible by ‘regular’ car, but maybe we should expect these red cabins showing up in our rearview mirrors somewhere in the near future.