Service begins on self-driving shuttle in Fairfax Co.

The autonomous electric shuttle "Relay" will carry passengers on a loop between the Dunn Loring Metro station to the popular shopping and living community in Merrifield, just outside the Capital Beltway. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
The autonomous electric shuttle “Relay” will carry passengers on a loop between the Dunn Loring Metro station to the popular shopping and living community in Merrifield, just outside the Capital Beltway. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

Rep. Gerry Connolly and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay step aboard the new Relay shuttle. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
Rep. Gerry Connolly and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay step aboard the new Relay shuttle. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

Rides are free, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 12-passenger capacity has been reduced to only  three passengers onboard. Face coverings are also required. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
Rides are free, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 12-passenger capacity has been reduced to three. Face coverings are also required. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

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The autonomous electric shuttle "Relay" will carry passengers on a loop between the Dunn Loring Metro station to the popular shopping and living community in Merrifield, just outside the Capital Beltway. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
Rep. Gerry Connolly and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay step aboard the new Relay shuttle. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
Rides are free, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 12-passenger capacity has been reduced to only  three passengers onboard. Face coverings are also required. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

If you want to get a first-hand look at cutting-edge driverless vehicle technology, you can now hop on a self-driving electric shuttle in the Mosaic District of Fairfax County.

The autonomous electric shuttle, called Relay, began carrying passengers Thursday after a ceremony featuring state and local leaders.

“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,” said Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “In Fairfax County, we are always improving and exploring new opportunities for innovation.”

The shuttle is the result of a public-private partnership involving Fairfax County, Dominion Energy, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and George Mason University.

Fairfax County and Dominion Energy are exploring how to best deploy self-driving electric technology as part of the overall transportation system in Virginia.

A look at the proposed route. Click to expand. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

“Innovative solutions, such as this, will help drive down carbon emissions and improve air quality,” said Mark Webb, Dominion Energy’s chief innovation officer. “Transportation is the No. 1 source of carbon emissions and electric vehicles are one way we can help other sectors reduce their impact on the environment.”

Relay will carry passengers on a loop between the Dunn Loring Metro station to the popular shopping and living community in Merrifield, just outside the Capital Beltway.

Rides are free, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, only three passengers are allowed on board at one time and face coverings are required.

Typically, Relay would be able to carry 12 passengers.

The shuttle operates Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., about every 15 to 20 minutes and travels at a maximum of 10 mph. To view real-time estimated arrival and departure information for Relay, visit the project website.

While this program is the first of its kind in Northern Virginia, in 2019 a self-driving public shuttle ran in a pilot program in suburban Albemarle County, in the town of Crozet.

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