The city of Toronto is going to start operating autonomous shuttles on a trial basis, through an agreement with Local Motors that will see that company's Olli 2.0 all-electric self-driving shuttle ferry passengers beginning in Spring 2021. The trial is being conducted with Pacific Western Transportation, a transportation operations company, and each ride over the course of the trial will include two full-time staffers, an operator on board from that partner, as well as a customer service rep from either TTC or Metrolinx, the company Toronto engages for much of its commuter transportation services.
The Olli 2.0 vehicle has a passenger capacity of up to eight people at a time, and includes accessibility features like a wheelchair ramp and securing points. It also includes an AV system for providing information and updates to passengers. The safety operator onboard the vehicle has the ability to take over manual control at any time, should the need arise due to safety concerns or for any other reason.
This pilot route will provide service between West Rouge and Rouge Hill GO station, which is a neighborhood west of the city of Toronto proper in the Greater Toronto Area community of Scarborough. It's designed to connect commuters to one of the area's primary light rail networks for longer-distance transportation. The city says that the goal is to also ensure that the autonomous shuttle is maintained up to whatever cleanliness and sanitization standards are in place at the time in light of COVID.
Last-mile use cases like this have been a target for autonomous transportation in cities, in part because they involve traveling a predictable, repeated route, doing so at relatively low speeds. This could eventually lead to the deployment of more service routes using Olli shuttles, adding infrastructure connecting the city's light rail and subway systems to parts of the city not covered by those primary arteries right now.