Passengers can now get a free, zero-emissions ride from the Mosaic District to the Dunn Loring Metrorail station on an electric autonomous shuttle! Earlier today, federal, state, and local officials joined Fairfax County and Dominion Energy to celebrate the launch of passenger service on Relay. The first publicly funded autonomous electric shuttle and test of driverless technology in public transportation in the Commonwealth of Virginia is now in operation. This pilot project is a public-private partnership between Fairfax County, Dominion Energy, EDENS (Mosaic District developer), Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), and George Mason University (GMU).
“As the shared mobility ecosystem expands, the Commonwealth recognizes the value of supporting pilots and programs for autonomous transit vehicles and innovative technology deployments with a variety of partner agencies in Virginia,” stated Cathy McGhee, Director of Research and Innovation, Office of the Secretary of Transportation. “This project is an example of collaboration, innovation, and technology intersecting to address the connections required to fully develop a multimodal transportation network.”
Collaborating on this pilot, Fairfax County and Dominion Energy are exploring how to best deploy autonomous electric technology as part of a large public transportation system. Fairfax County is interested in this technology for its potential economic and environmental benefits, operational efficiencies and as a first-mile/last-mile travel solution. The County received a $200,000 grant from VDRPT for the operations of the pilot and provided a $50,000 local match. The County is contracting with Transdev to manage the operations of Relay.
“If there is technology that is going to improve the quality of life of our residents – through cleaner air, more efficient transit, and a stronger economy – we want to be on the forefront of that. In Fairfax County, we are always improving and exploring new opportunities for innovation,” said Jeffrey C. McKay, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Dominion Energy is committed to driving change and supporting innovations that will reduce carbon emissions. Autonomous electric vehicle technology is predicted to play a major role in a lower-emissions transportation future in Virginia and across the nation. For this pilot project, Dominion Energy is supplying the autonomous electric vehicle, which is manufactured by EasyMile under a model name EZ10. This model has a proven track record of over 200 deployments and features a full set of sensors, including Lidars, odometry, cameras, and GPS to ensure safety.
“Innovative solutions, such as this, will help drive down carbon emissions and improve air quality,” said Mark Webb, Dominion Energy Chief Innovation Officer. “Transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions and electric vehicles are one way we can help other sectors reduce their impact on the environment.”
Mosaic District – a residential, entertainment and shopping development – was chosen as the community partner for the pilot project because of EDENS’ commitment and support for testing new technologies to foster innovation. Its proximity to the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station was also a key factor in selection of the Mosaic District as the location for the pilot.
“At EDENS, innovation and sustainability are integral to our design strategy for our places. Our Mosaic team is pioneering intelligent urban design and enhancing the way people interact and create community,” said Jodie W. McLean, EDENS CEO. “Our partnership with Fairfax County and Dominion Energy embodies our commitment to minimize our impact on the environment. We’re proud to have Mosaic serve as the forefront for testing and using new technologies that will shape generations to come.”
Fairfax County and Dominion Energy are also partnering with the George Mason University to gain insights on how the public views the deployment of autonomous electric technology in general and during this pilot project. Fairfax County residents and visitors are invited to take a brief online survey on the project website to share their thoughts on this emerging technology.
Take a Ride on Relay – 3 Things to Know
The residents, visitors, and commuters in the Merrifield area of Fairfax County will be able to ride Relay beginning today, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. In preparation for passenger service, Relay has undergone extensive safety testing by VDOT, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and Transdev, in coordination with EasyMile. A safety steward will always be on-board the shuttle to monitor operations.
- Relay operates Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., approximately every 15-20 minutes, from the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station (bus bay A) to the Barnes and Noble stop in the Mosaic District (view route map.) To view real-time estimated arrival and departure information for Relay, visit the project website.
- In response to the coronavirus pandemic, cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place and the shuttle is limited to three (3) passengers, plus the safety steward. Face coverings are required.
- Relay operates at a very slow speed (10 miles an hour max) and passengers should expect their trip to take approximately 15 minutes. Seat belts are required to be worn when in the vehicle.
Have questions or comments? For customer service, please call 703-339-7200, TTY 703-339-1608; Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Se habla Español, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Relay and the pilot project, visit fairfaxcounty.gov/transportation/autonomous-shuttle-pilot.
Image courtesy of Fairfax County