Orlando’s Self-Driving Shuttle Restarts

Test Runs of Beep Vehicles Begin Four Months After Accident
Beep shuttle
Beep's driverless EV shuttle on display in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Sidelined for four months following a crash, Orlando’s self-driving bus downtown is expected to restart its test runs March 5.

The bus has been off the roads in Creative Village awaiting a review of the Nov. 4 accident. It turned out that an attendant aboard the SWAN Shuttle triggered the vehicle to go while at a stop signal, and guided it into the path of a Lynx bus turning east on Amelia Street, according to a police crash report.

“Unfortunately, it was human error that caused this,” said Joe Moye, the CEO of Beep Inc., which operates the autonomous bus.

The SWAN (for Shuttling With Autonomous Navigation) bus mostly drives itself, though an attendant with a device similar to a video game controller can intervene if needed. In the case of the crash, the attendant saw a green light for vehicle traffic but faced a horizontal stop signal in the bus lane where the shuttle was driving. He drove forward anyway, and the front of the shuttle struck the right side of the Lynx bus, police said.

Beep shuttle

A pedestrian walks in front of a Beep shuttle vehicle. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via TNS)

Following the crash — the second since the test began in August — Beep retrained all of its attendants and also decided to add a second one to each shuttle. That will allow one person to focus on the road, and the other to talk to riders and collect feedback, Moye said.

The shuttle remains free for riders and runs seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

City officials hope the technology could be used elsewhere in the city if the test is deemed successful, said Tanya Wilder, Orlando’s transportation director.

“We’ve been patiently waiting and excited to resume operations,” Wilder said. “We have had a lot of conversations and ultimately all the partners support the continuation of the pilot for the full six months.”

It’s expected to run until June 21, Wilder said. The pilot cost about $500,000 to run.

The pill-shaped electric vehicle travels slowly in the designated LYMMO bus lanes on West Amelia Street, Terry Avenue, West Livingston Street and North Garland Avenue.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

For about five years, Beep has also run a shuttle in the Lake Nona area where the company is based, and last year began a route in Altamonte Springs.

Soon the company will begin piloting more advanced shuttles in Lake Nona, Moye said. Over the next two years, he said, technology should advance to the point where the vehicles don’t need attendants on board, and can safely run on their own.

“The next 18 to 24 months, you’re going to see these vehicles come out of these pilot states and into broader use cases where we can deploy these in fleets of tens or even hundreds,” he said. “We absolutely see this as a big solution for downtown urban areas.”


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC