Transit agencies exploring use of autonomous buses in areas including Hampton Roads

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A consortium of transit agencies is considering the possibility of having autonomous buses deployed in parts of the country including Hampton Roads.

Hampton Roads Transit said in a news release Thursday it is one of 12 agencies across the country that have committed to the Automated Bus Consortium.

Autonomous buses are vehicles that can run with either a passive human attendant or a fully automated system. Automated transit vehicles are being used in certain areas of the country, but mostly as smaller, shuttle-typ vehicles.

The release said this new program will look to show that autonomous bus technology can navigate and run reliably in a variety of environments including flood-prone Hampton Roads.

The program will determine the best pilot regions and routes — and investigate any regulatory changes needed for the use of these kinds of vehicles.

The release said the program hopes to eventually have 75 to 100 full-sized autonomous buses obtained jointly, the release said.

HRT said it is unknown how many of those would be used in Hampton Roads. The transit agency noted they would be in limited use, though, even if the region qualifies for some buses.

Most of the agency’s buses would still be operated by a driver.

HRT said the research from this program will help it determine whether the technology is right for the region before any financial resources are committed.

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