Transportation

Houston’s First Self-Driving Shuttle Rolls Out At Texas Southern University

The autonomous vehicle will have an operator on board during a pilot program.

Texas Southern University is now home to Houston’s first autonomous shuttle — a tiny 12-passenger vehicle that will transport students and staff along TSU’s Tiger Walk.

METRO is operating the campus shuttle as part of a six-month pilot program to learn how autonomous vehicles could be used in other parts of the region. 

“TSU is no stranger to making history,” said METRO Chairman Carrin Patman at a ribbon-cutting event. “Which is why it is particularly fitting to have this pilot on this campus.”

TSU President Dr. Austin Lane, who also spoke at the event, said the self-driving bus is part of their mission to help students succeed.

“If you look around our campus and look where the bus stops are located, if you look at this shuttle behind me and how they will get to and from class, it’s important that our students have transportation,” said Lane.

Several community partners have provided funding for the autonomous bus, which will be operated by transportation provider First Transit through a contract with METRO.

“We want to prove that this technology can be applied in a real-world situation,” said METRO CEO Tom Lambert. 

TSU’s Center for Transportation Training and Research will also help provide data on ridership. Lambert said they want to see if they can use those vehicles in other situations, such as picking up riders in their neighborhoods and dropping them off at transit centers. He added that larger self-driving buses could also be used in designated lanes to transport commuters.

“We think there are a lot of applications,” Lambert told News 88.7. “The opportunity though is learning from what we’re doing in this pilot and then see what we did learn, how can we apply it, how can we measure success.”

While the TSU bus does drive itself, there is an operator on board who has several options for manually stopping the vehicle in case there’s a problem.

 

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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