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.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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