Bryan, Texas, is now among the first cities in the country to have self-driving vehicles, or trolleys, operating on their city streets.
The mayor of Bryan and the chancellor of The Texas A&M University System introduced members of the media to the two self-driving trolleys Oct. 31, as the vehicles began operating in a looped, one-block pattern over the next month in downtown Bryan. Residents are encouraged to ride the trolleys. Two “safety drivers” will be able to take control if needed. A total of four other passengers can ride in each trolley, which can reach a maximum 10 mile-per-hour speed.
The six-person vehicles were assembled by Srikanth Saripalli, associate professor in Texas A&M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and associate research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). Saripalli and his students will monitor the operation of the self-driving vehicles.
“TTI is the best transportation research organization in the world,” A&M System Chancellor John Sharp told the crowd gathering for the trolley unveiling. “Greg Winfree [TTI agency director] and his folks are always on the cutting edge of things.” Sharp noted that the trolleys will be tested as they operate in an urban setting, which is more complex than on a test track.
Mayor Andrew Nelson, Chancellor Sharp, Winfree and Dean of Texas A&M’s College of Engineering M. Katherine Banks rode the trolleys for the media event.