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Dunedin leaders plan to test driverless buses

Posted: 5:12 PM, Jun 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-03 18:33:28-04
Driverless bus

DUNEDIN, Fla. — A bus that drives itself, and it's free. It may sound hard to believe, but it's a real thing, and it's coming to the Tampa Bay area.

"I'd be interested to see how it works," said tourist Gloria Taylor.

They're minibuses that seat 15 people. Navya, a France-based company, created it a few years ago. Several cities across the world are already using them, including Las Vegas.

St. Petersburg and Clearwater are planning to test them for three months this summer and fall. Dunedin City leaders are close to approving a proposal to test them next spring.

"It's perfect for our main street, " said Robert Ironsmith.

Ironsmith is the director of economic and housing for Dunedin. According to him, the bus will primarily be on Main St. It'll go back and forth from the hospital to the marina.

"I'm a little concerned about that," said Heather Hytner.

She is the co-owner of The Spice and Tea Exchange, which is along the route.

"I think it'll add to the congestion," she said. "And I think having a driverless vehicle is concerning."

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is planning to hire someone to be on the buses at all times.

"That's the key," said Ironsmith. "The driver will be able to take control at any point and time, and make adjustments if needed."

According to Navya, the buses can go 12 to 25 miles per hour. Dunedin city leaders plan to set the speed at 15 to match the flow of traffic on Main St.

"That might work. It sounds safer," said Hytner.

PSTA will use a federal grant to pay to test the buses in all three cities.