The next time you're making your way down tony Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, you might be doing it in a shuttle. Doesn't sound too glamorous? Make that a driverless shuttle, and all of a sudden you're all glammed up.
The Beverly Hills City Council recently gave the green light to autonomous shuttles as part of its public transportation system. The initiative is still in its early stages, so there's no telling when you'll be able to see these self-driving cars.
A planned extension of the city's Purple Line subway will eventually connect Beverly Hills and other Westside neighborhoods to downtown Los Angeles. Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch says these driverless shuttles will help passengers actually get to those new Metro stops that are too far to walk to, but too close to drive to.
This isn't California's first driverless (saddle-less?) rodeo. In 2015, the Bay Area city of Concord passed a bill that will allow the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) to test driverless shuttles in a business park in the summer of 2016.
The California DMV still has to draft rules and regulations to put driverless vehicles on the road for commercial use. There's concern how safe driverless vehicles are when it comes to mass transit.
EasyMile, for one, says its shuttles are equipped with redundant perception systems that detect static or moving objects and adjusts the shuttle's trajectory and speed.
EasyMile, a French company known for deploying driverless shuttles in countries like Switzerland and Finland, will be manufacturing the vehicles. The shuttles in Concord will have to operate at speeds lower than 35 miles per hour. They run on virtual tracks that can be configured to accommodate shifts in demand.
Critics of driverless shuttles say that unmanned vehicles will replace jobs in Concord and Beverly Hills alike. But state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla told Circa the maintenance of these vehicles will actually create more jobs.
Meanwhile, residents are split.
"I would absolutely [ride one]," said Beverly Hills resident Candice Fields. "I fit's a perfectly engineered electric system. We do that at amusement parks all the time, so I would do it.
"No, I think it's very dangerous," said Beverly Hills resident Paul Walls. "And no, no, I wouldn't. No."