Fairfax County & Dominion Energy launch Virginia’s first publicly funded autonomous electric shuttle pilot project

26 October 2020

Fairfax County and Dominion Energy have launched passenger service on Relay—the first publicly funded autonomous electric shuttle and test of driverless technology in public transportation in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This pilot project is a public-private partnership between Fairfax County, Dominion Energy, EDENS (Mosaic District developer), Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), and George Mason University (GMU).

Collaborating on this pilot, Fairfax County and Dominion Energy are exploring how to best deploy autonomous electric technology as part of a large public transportation system. Fairfax County is interested in this technology for its potential economic and environmental benefits, operational efficiencies and as a first-mile/last-mile travel solution. The County received a $200,000 grant from VDRPT for the operations of the pilot and provided a$50,000 local match. The County is contracting with Transdev to manage the operations of Relay.

Autonomous electric vehicle technology is predicted to play a major role in a lower-emissions transportation future in Virginia and across the nation. For this pilot project, Dominion Energy is supplying the autonomous electric vehicle, which is manufactured by EasyMile under a model name EZ10. This model has a proven track record of more than 200 deployments and features a full set of sensors, including lidars, odometry, cameras, and GPS to ensure safety.

EZ10 autonomous shuttle.

Mosaic District—a residential, entertainment and shopping development—was chosen as the community partner for the pilot project because of EDENS’ commitment and support for testing new technologies to foster innovation. Its proximity to the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station was also a key factor in selection of the Mosaic District as the location for the pilot.

Fairfax County and Dominion Energy are also partnering with the George Mason University to gain insights on how the public views the deployment of autonomous electric technology in general and during this pilot project. Fairfax County residents and visitors are invited to take a brief online survey on the project website to share their thoughts on this emerging technology.

In preparation for passenger service, Relay has undergone extensive safety testing by VDOT, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and Transdev, in coordination with EasyMile. A safety steward will always be on-board the shuttle to monitor operations.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place and the shuttle is limited to three passengers, plus the safety steward. Face coverings are required.

Relay operates at a very slow speed (10 miles an hour max) and passengers should expect their trip to take approximately 15 minutes. Seat belts are required to be worn when in the vehicle.