After a hurricane delay, Orlando's first autonomous buses finally begin routes in Lake Nona

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PHOTO VIA LAKE NONA
  • Photo via Lake Nona
If you've been waiting for your chance to ride in an autonomous vehicle, Central Florida's first self-driving shuttles will begin hauling passengers in Lake Nona on Wednesday. The launch was delayed from an earlier August date by Hurricane Dorian.

Two autonomous shuttles will operate on a fixed route between Lake Nona Town Center (where the Pixon Apartments are located) and Laureate Park Village Center, where the event is taking place. Closed food and drinks are allowed on the shuttle, but not alcohol nor any kind of smoking. Only service and companion animals are allowed to ride the shuttle, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.



The shuttles will operate daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and again from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Shuttle are expected to arrive at stops every 10-15 minutes. The pickup and drop-off spots are the only places to board or exit the shuttles – they cannot be hailed like a cab. At first, the rides will be free, paid for by Lake Nona.

Each shuttle holds up to 10 passengers and will operate at a maximum speed of 15 mph. Called "Move Nona," the shuttles are operated by Beep and manufactured by NAVYA.
Though the shuttles are driverless, a Beep attendant will initially accompany the shuttles until the laws requiring attendants change. Each shuttle has seatbelts and an emergency kit onboard, and is in constant communication with the Beep command center in Lake Nona Town Center. Each shuttle is equipped with cameras for the command center to see inside and outside the vehicles.

Beep hosted a training session earlier this year for nearly 100 emergency personnel from both Orange County and City of Orlando fire rescue, EMT, and police departments. The training included how to deal with the vehicles in an emergency situation and how to override the driver controls.



The shuttles are not currently ADA compliant, "as it was originally designed with European accessibility standards in mind," but are wheelchair accessible with a manual ramp stored on board. The manufacturer is currently working with an ADA retrofit company in the U.S. to include features such as an automated wheelchair ramp and a wheelchair securement system.

Wednesday morning's event will include executives from Lake Nona, Beep and NAVYA, along with elected officials originally invited to the August launch. A handout from Move Nona gives more details about the vehicles and planning process.

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