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Las Vegas launches the first electric autonomous shuttle on U.S. public roads

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Las Vegas, transportation beat reporters can’t quit you; CES was like a car extravaganza, and now you’re launching a self-driving, fully electric shuttle on public streets. The shuttles are the result of a partnership between shuttle-maker Navya, fleet logistics provider Keolis and the city of Las Vegas, and began picking up members of the public today, riding a regular route along iconic Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street — right in the thick of regular traffic.

The route will run between January 11 and 20, and will use Navya’s ARMA shuttle, which previously underwent testing in the U.S. at the University of Michigan’s MCity autonomous testing facility, and which has been deployed in France since 2015. The test is part of Las Vegas’ broader efforts to create a designated area in the city’s urban center for testing autonomous and connected cars. Vegas has also invested significantly in connected infrastructure, including connecting traffic lights throughout the downtown area.

Shuttles with defined routes are a relatively low-risk area for companies to deploy autonomous-driving tech, as there are fewer variables to take into consideration as compared to more free-roaming self-driving vehicles. You can map the route extensively, for instance, and having connected infrastructure present is also a plus. It’s likely we’ll see much more of this kind of autonomous-tech deployment well before we see self-driving consumer-owned vehicles on roads.