ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Driverless shuttles could be coming to St. Pete this fall if given the green light Wednesday morning by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Board of Directors. The project, a first-of-its-kind in the Tampa Bay area, has already been approved by PSTA committees and St. Pete City Council.
The autonomous shuttle demonstration program would bring two Beep shuttles to Bayshore Drive from mid-November to mid-February. PSTA is funding, deploying and maintaining the nearly $140,000 project whereas the City of St. Pete is in charge of route and stop infrastructure, as well as vehicle storage.
The shuttles would operate on a continuous one-mile loop with stops at the Salvador Dali Museum and Mahaffey Theatre, North Straub Park near 5th Avenue North and Bayshore Drive and 2nd Avenue North.
Although the shuttles are technically driverless, PSTA officials say attendants will be on board to answer riders questions and to manually override the system if necessary.
The service will be free. Hours have not yet been set.
However, PSTA and St. Pete officials are already thinking about COVID-19 safety precautions, including cleaning and sanitizing on a regular basis.
“We’re going to limit the capacity on the shuttles from 10 passengers to six and have seating arrangements in place and follow all necessary precautions recommended right now,” said Tom Whalen, Planner III with the City of St. Pete.
PSTA would like to try out the technology in Clearwater and Dunedin.
Officials say the demonstrations will happen right after the pilot in St. Pete if funding can be secured in the next few months.