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Toledo has plans for driverless bus loop downtown

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    TARTA buses wait at the Jackson Street bus stop in September. The transit authority is in discussions that could bring electric bus service to downtown.

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    Video cameras and smart technology are positioned on light posts at an intersection in downtown Marysville, Ohio. Honda held a special event to showcase their new Smart Intersection technology.

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Toledo is getting in on the autonomous-vehicle movement with plans for a driverless bus loop around the downtown.

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority is consulting with business organizations and other stakeholders to bring electric bus service to downtown that will link businesses, attractions, and residential developments by as early as this spring, said TARTA General Manager Jim Gee.

CTY-TARTA10p-9

TARTA buses wait at the Jackson Street bus stop in September. The transit authority is in discussions that could bring electric bus service to downtown.

The Blade
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Toledo has won a $1.8 million federal transit grant that Mr. Gee said would run driverless, electric buses every 15 minutes along a route that is still being determined.

“What really attracted us was that autonomous technology is the future of transportation,” he said.

Toledo officials have toured one autonomous bus factory. They are looking at a variety of options for operating the system, Mr. Gee said.

The route may deploy up to three buses depending on the length and configuration of the eventual downtown route, he said. Most likely, TARTA will lease the buses or hire a vendor to operate the system, he said.

The money can be used for the buses and up to three years of operating expenses, Mr. Gee said. Whatever buses are leased will be electric and seat 12, he said.

“We’re not sure we want to buy technology that will be obsolete in two years,” he said.

Each bus will have a human backup driver to brake and override the vehicle in case of emergency. But all will be equipped with the latest collision-avoidance equipment, including cameras, sensors, and lidar. The route for each bus will be programmed into the vehicle, Mr. Gee said.

The project is still in the planning phase.

Among the stakeholders being consulted are the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, ConnectToledo and the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.

Mr. Gee said Toledo, as a historic transportation hub, needs to be on the cutting edge of the coming connected-vehicle wave.

“Toledo was built on transportation,” he said.

Contact David Barkholz at dbarkholz@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @barkholzatAN.

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