Autonomous shuttle linking part of Capital Riverfront with Barracks Row, Capitol Hill

The Optimus Ride autonomous shuttle. (Courtesy Brookfield Properties)

Boston-based Optimus Ride, operator of boxy, autonomously driven passenger shuttles, has launched a service connecting part of D.C.’s Capital Riverfront to Barracks Row and Capitol Hill.

The route covers two stops in The Yards, with five additional stops at Tingey Plaza, Navy Yard Metro, Garfield Park, Capitol South Metro, Eastern Market Metro and Barracks Row.

There are three vehicles that are part of The Yards Optimus Ride fleet.

The Yards developer Brookfield Properties is providing the shuttle service for both residents and visitors to The Yards free of charge. Brookfield did not disclose the financial terms of its partnership with Optimus.

The Yards service will also be different from other autonomous shuttle routes. Users with the Opti-Ride app can hail a pickup for ride scheduling and reservations from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday with a minimum pickup time of 15 minutes.

The Yards is the first location Optimus Ride is offering the Opti-Ride reservations app.

Autonomous does not mean driverless. The shuttles have safety drivers onboard who can intervene if necessary.

Optimus Ride launched an autonomous shuttle service with six vehicles in Reston, Virginia, at Brookfield’s Halley Rise community in August of 2019, though service there has been temporarily suspended since last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, it completed more than 40,000 passenger trips at Halley Rise.

The Yards service is fully operational right now, with COVID-19 protocols that limit each shuttle to two passengers at a time. The vehicles have been fitted with acrylic seat dividers.

Optimus Ride also operates an autonomous shuttle service in Boston’s Seaport District, Paradise Valley Estates in Paradise Valley, California and Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City.

Another autonomous shuttle company, Local Motors, began testing two autonomous shuttles at National Harbor in late-2019, though that service was suspended at the beginning of the pandemic as well. National Harbor says it hopes it will return to service soon.

Below is a map of the Optimus The Yards Opti-Ride route (click to enlarge):

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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