The City of Bryan will introduce two electric self-driving trolleys to Downtown Bryan this October in partnership with the Texas A&M College of Engineering, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), and Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI). In contrast to other programs, the Downtown Bryan location provides a pedestrian rich environment for both foot and bicycle traffic offering numerous, real-life challenges to autonomous vehicle driving technology. These self-driving trolleys are the first of their kind to be utilized on public rights-of-way in the Brazos Valley and, to our knowledge, only the second in the nation.
“Downtown Bryan offers the perfect landscape for refining the technology used to provide autonomous transportation,” shares Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson. “With bicycles, pedestrians, automobiles, and trains to test the capabilities of the self-driving trolleys, we are excited to see how this program can assist with research already underway by TEES. This is another area where Texas A&M and the City of Bryan have partnered for the betterment of the community.”
Dr. Srikanth Saripalli of Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering and Associate Research Scientist at TTI will lead this program. As part of the Unmanned Systems Lab, his research focuses on mapping, localization, guidance, navigation and control for developing autonomous ground and aerial vehicles. Researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) will help evaluate the introduction of the self-driving trolleys, including gaining feedback from trolley riders and other roadway users to inform future pilots and deployments in the Brazos Valley and cities throughout Texas.
“Texas A&M research continues to bring driverless vehicles closer to being an everyday reality on Texas roads, and this partnership with the city of Bryan is an important next step in that process,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “The trolleys will serve as an entertaining way for people to get around downtown Bryan, but they’ll also provide researchers with valuable information.”
The self-driving trolleys will make a clockwise loop in Downtown Bryan beginning at the Roy Kelly Parking Garage heading south on Regent Avenue, turning west onto 28th Street then turning north onto South Main Street, east on 26th Street, and finally south onto Regent Avenue. The route includes crossing the railroad tracks that are located between Regent Avenue and South Main Street twice. At this time, the trolleys do not cross TxDOT roadways.
There are five different pick-up/drop-off points known as depots which will be marked by sandwich board signage during hours of operation. For the first 30 days of the program, TEES will operate the trolleys for two hours each day between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, Monday through Friday. After these first 30 days, there is an opportunity for the schedule to be modified.
The Self-Driving Trolleys
The electric trolleys can accommodate 6 total occupants including 2 safety drivers and 4 passengers, and are equipped with seat belts for all riders. Each are uniquely wrapped to be easily identified by the public.