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Self-driving electric shuttle heading to Whitby GO as part of AV pilot project

Durham Region residents will soon see a self-driving, electric vehicle rolling into Whitby GO as Metrolinx partners with several agencies to help create the smart infrastructure. Find out more about the new autonomous shuttle and how it fits into a fully integrated local transit network of the future.

What was once reserved for the world of science fiction is now becoming a reality.

 Starting this summer, a self-driving, emission-free vehicle will begin test runs in Whitby.

The WAVE (Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric) shuttle will be tested on a six-kilometre route that will begin and end at the Whitby GO Station, making a loop through the residential, recreational and industrial areas of the Port Whitby neighbourhood (in south Whitby).

The ultimate goal is to have people use the shuttle to safely get to Whitby GO station without the hassle of finding parking.

SmartCone Technologies, AutoGuardian By SmartCone, the Town of Whitby, Region of Durham, Durham Region Transit (DRT), Metrolinx and other partners are working to make this idea a reality.

“We’re excited to be a part of this pilot to integrate autonomous vehicles into our transit network, enhancing connections to GO Transit and local transit services,” says Metrolinx President and CEO, Phil Verster.

The WAVE shuttle will be tested on a six-kilometre route that will begin and end at the Whitby GO Station, making a loop through the Port Whitby neighbourhood. (SmartCone photo).

The project, which is being supported by the Government of Ontario in funding through the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) and led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), will provide an opportunity to see how this new technology can contribute to a safer, more sustainable and connected transit experience for the community.

The program will also help experts better understand the infrastructure necessary to prepare other public roads in Canada for autonomous vehicles.

“We are working with our municipal partners to build on all of the work that has been done to date in finding new and innovative ways to move people throughout the region more efficiently and seamlessly,” explains Verster.

With safety being the top priority, the shuttle will only operate at a speed of no more than 20 kilometres per hour (while in autonomous mode) and will have a trained safety attendant on board who can manually take control of the vehicle at any time, if required.

The service will also be aided by smart transportation infrastructure that will monitor traffic conditions and help to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. This includes the elimination of blind spots experienced by vehicles and use of real-time audio and visual alerts to other road users about the shuttle’s operation.

On-road testing for the WAVE shuttle service will begin this summer, with plans for public ridership later this year. You can read more about the pilot project here.

Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson and media relations specialist