Autonomous Prototype Solves Common Mass Transit Problems

If it works, it would not only remove the negative stigma of public transportation, but actually be profitable.

We’ve talked about a ton of autonomous vehicle technology, and we’ve also discussed electric ride-hailing solutions; new technology for low-cost public transportation probably doesn’t sound all that revolutionary any more.

But according to Mark Seeger, the founder and CEO of Concord, California-based Glydways, it will be necessary to combine elements of all three of these strategies and technologies to truly impact and innovate the future of mobility.

If he and his team can make their platform work, it would not only remove the negative stigma of public transportation, but deliver it in a way that is profitable — and appealing enough to take vehicles off the road.

To deliver on all these fronts, Glydways proposes a network of four-passenger electric vehicles, measuring 4 feet wide and 7 feet high, running on-demand, like Lyft or Uber. 

The vehicles would have dedicated stations and their own lane, but these lanes would only need to be a little wider than a bike lane, and could follow the ebb and flow of current roadways to navigate neighborhoods and city centers. 

Sans driver, the interior offers a touchscreen to start the trip, close the doors — even select music. Once the vehicle starts moving on its pre-programmed route, it can hit speeds as fast as 75 miles per hour. 

According to a report on BusinessInsider.com, Seeger estimates that the Glydways system would cost about $50 million per mile to implement, which is at least half of what other rail-based systems currently cost.

While the cost per ride would depend on several factors, the company is confident that fares would be in line with a subway token. 

The company’s complete offering is still coming together, but a recent infusion of $30 million from an investor has it targeting a potential rollout in 2024. And according to the Business Insider article, Glydways is in deep discussions with municipalities in California and Florida, with expectations that a signed contract to implement their first system could come as early as December. 

Amazon has also reportedly expressed interest in the system for delivery applications. 

The combination of a more cost-effective public transit offering and delivery capabilities is what could lead to higher profits for the company, which, in turn, could be used to improve the experience and draw more users.

More customers means more revenue, which adds to the viability of the platform, and meets the true goals of public transportation – mass affordability, and fewer passenger vehicles on the road.

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