Fairfax County, Virginia, and Dominion Energy are partnering on an autonomous electric shuttle pilot tentatively planned for the Merrifield area in Fairfax County. Last week, the demonstration project moved a step closer to implementation with the award of a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) for the execution of the pilot.
The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the $250,000 grant for Fairfax County, making this pilot the first state-funded autonomous public transportation demonstration project in Virginia.
The pilot would also be one of the first tests of driverless technology in public transportation in Virginia. Fairfax County will provide a $50,000 local match to the VDRPT grant.
The goal of the pilot is for Fairfax County and Dominion Energy to learn about the various aspects of deploying autonomous vehicles as part of a large public transportation system. Fairfax County aims to be at the forefront of innovation by testing this smart technology for economic and environmental benefits, operational efficiencies and as a first and last mile travel option connecting people from Metrorail stations to employment, activity centers and residential communities.
Dominion Energy is committed to being a driver of change and supporting innovative projects that will reduce carbon emissions and help customers do the same. Autonomous and electric vehicle technology will play a major role in a lower-emissions transportation future in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the nation.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a formal partnership agreement between Fairfax County and Dominion Energy on 25 June 2019. As part of the partnership, Dominion Energy would lease or buy the vehicle for this pilot and Fairfax County would oversee the operations.
Safety will be key to the successful implementation of the pilot and the project is subject to safety reviews by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The shuttles will undergo extensive testing before passenger service can begin and a safety steward will be on board to monitor operations.