Self-driving shuttle debuts in Montgomery Co.

A self-driving electric shuttle is now on the roads of Montgomery County — the first time Maryland’s Department of Transportation has granted permission for an autonomous vehicle to operate in the county.

The Olli, an eight-passenger box on wheels, is currently in use at National Harbor, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington County, Virginia.

In Montgomery County, the vehicle will shuttle on a half-mile stretch of public roadway — Gateway Center Drive — between Robotic Research’s two office locations, in Clarksburg.

The company provides its AutoDrive autonomy software and hardware to Olli’s manufacturer, Local Motors, to enable the shuttle to operate without a driver.

“For safety redundancies, however, the Montgomery County deployment will have a safety operator on board at all times, available for immediate takeover of vehicle control if necessary,” according to a news release from Robotic Research.

According to the company, Maryland’s Department of Transportation granted a Highly Automated Vehicle permit for the Olli shuttle after reviewing the technology with Montgomery County government, law enforcement, fire and EMS and public transportation agencies.

”This is a great step forward in innovation in the state of Maryland, and is a great example of the kind of leadership in technology the state is committed to supporting in the private sector,” said Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research.

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