Today, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Board of Directors approved an extension of service for AVA , short for Autonomous Vehicle Advantage, to continue operating in St. Petersburg until March 28th, 2021 (click here for photos/video). The fare free all-electric shuttle is the state’s first autonomous vehicle fleet launched by a transit agency in mixed traffic.
Visitors have no doubt taken notice of the bright shuttle carrying curious passengers along Bayshore from the entrance to the Pier down to the Dali Museum. AVA is one of the first autonomous vehicle programs in the state to operate in mixed use traffic, on an open road next to other vehicles.
AVA offers scenic rides to popular entertainment hubs
“Over the last 3 months, AVA has been a great success along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg,” said Brad Miller, Chief Executive Officer of PSTA. “Once approved, we are excited to have AVA continue bringing smiles and rides to residents in the Sunshine City.”
AVA’s extension in St. Petersburg still must be approved by the St. Petersburg City Council. It is expected to be on the agenda for the city council meeting on March 4th.
The free service had been expected to end the first week of March.
AVA will continue to operate along Bayshore Drive Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The shuttle uses eight sensors on the outside of the vehicle providing a 360-degree view of the environment. An on-board shuttle attendant, or copilot, serves as an ambassador for the riders to learn more about the technology and oversee the high-quality passenger experience.
It’s 100% electric in St. Petersburg
The 100% electric vehicle can drive for 9 hours on just a few dollars of electricity. In addition, fewer moving parts means less environmental impact due to reduced maintenance and AVA has no consumable fluids onboard, like oil or engine coolant, that can harm the environment.
The functionality of the shuttle is enabled by a safe, pre-determined planned route. AVA is equipped with multiple onboard LiDAR sensors and GPS tracking to ensure the path is maintained during operation. The vehicle performance is monitored by an onboard shuttle specialist as well as Beep’s Global Command Center located in Orlando, Florida.
AVA costs less than $30 per month to charge, and the vehicle reacts 10 times faster than a human can, while never getting distracted from the roadway.
Extending through March
The autonomous shuttle will operate at a maximum speed of 15 mph as part of a 3-month pilot. Riders will be required to wear a seatbelt and use a face covering while on the shuttle.
Passengers can expect processes and procedures onboard that align with best practices for ridesharing and transit according to federal guidelines such as frequent cleaning procedures and a modified seating capacity. (see Beep’s COVID response page here). Passengers are limited to one round trip.