Driverless shuttle crash in Vegas puts Tampa program under microscope

- As HART prepares to launch its first self-driving shuttles, a similar driverless vehicle service that debuted in Las Vegas this week had a rocky start.

The self-driving shuttle, made by French startup Navya and operated by the company Keolis, was involved in a minor crash on Wednesday just a few hours after hitting the downtown Vegas streets for its first ride.

The shuttle hit the front end of a large delivery truck when a human driver pulled out of an alley and into the street.

"It saw the truck approach and it stopped as designed. The truck just continued and never stopped backing up," said Andreas Mai, Executive Vice President of Keolis.

HART officials say they don't expect the same rocky start as Sin City.

"We have great experience with the streetcar line here in Tampa. In the 15 years of operation, there has not been a single collision with a car that was the streetcar's fault."

HART Officials said unlike Vegas, they do not plan to have the 12-seater shuttles mixed in with vehicles on the streets in Tampa during the two-year pilot program.

"We are looking at a dedicated guideway that only buses are on with restricted access," said HART CEO Katharine Eagan.

The shuttles will drive on a one-mile stretch on Marion Street to a location near Amalie Arena. Signs are already posted along the route warning cars not to drive down the restricted road.

Eagan said Tampa drivers already have some experience with autonomous vehicles through the city's streetcars, adding that the Vegas crash is leading HART officials to now consider adding additional signage along Marion Street advising drivers that a driverless vehicle is passing through.

For the first year of Tampa's pilot program, the driverless shuttles will have an attendant on board.

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