Testing for self-driving buses began this week in Downtown Austin and will continue for the next 60 days. The pilot shuttle program is expected to launch this upcoming Fall.

This week the testing focuses on helping the vehicles learn the routes and where the signals and signs are located. For now, the testing is taking place at night between midnight and 4 a.m.

Starting next week the vehicles will appear on the streets during the day.

During the initial pilot program for the first 12 months all rides will be free. The buses seat 15 people and pass all Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The buses will travel through downtown every 5-7 minutes. The routes have not yet been determined.

The shuttles will serve heavily visited areas like Austin City Hall, the new Central Library, Republic Square and the downtown MetroRail station.

The buses may be called self-driving but there will be an operator on board for customer assistance and as a safety and security precaution.

The first testing phase is focused on assessing the technology without passengers onboard, battery life and docking. The second testing phase would include passengers.

The shuttles were initially demonstrated during SXSW at The University of Texas in spring of 2017. The shuttles were adopted to be a part of the Capital Metro Connections 2025 service last year.

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