In a collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Charlotte and autonomous technology firm Beep, students and staff will soon have the opportunity to experience self-driving transportation on campus. Beep, a Florida-based company known for its self-driving technology, is set to conduct a six-month pilot program deploying an all-electric autonomous shuttle at UNC. This initiative further strengthens Beep's relationship with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
Previously, Beep and NCDOT collaborated on a pilot project in Cary's Fred G Bond Metro Park, where an autonomous shuttle provided transportation along a 1.6-mile route with four stops, serving both residents and tourists.
The upcoming pilot at UNC will feature an autonomous shuttle named CASSI, which stands for “Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation.” This shuttle will operate on a more extensive 2.2-mile route, serving six stops that connect critical locations on the campus. These stops include the Popp Martin Student Union, Greek Village, academic buildings, dormitories, and the main campus light rail station on the LYNX Blue Line.
The LYNX Blue Line is an 18-mile light rail system with 26 stations, offering connections to 11 park-and-ride facilities and direct access to UNC Charlotte. By integrating with the LYNX Blue Line, CASSI aims to significantly enhance transportation options available to campus users.
The Navya-manufactured shuttle, capable of accommodating eight passengers, relies on lidar, cameras, and GNSS antenna technology to enable autonomous operations. While the shuttle is self-driving, an onboard attendant will ensure passenger safety and address any inquiries.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation envisions this initiative as a demonstration of how autonomous vehicle solutions can enhance local transportation networks. To this end, CASSI will face more complex challenges during its UNC pilot, including navigating a longer route with additional traffic signals.
Riders will be encouraged to provide feedback on the comfort, convenience, and safety of the autonomous shuttle program.
UNC Charlotte also anticipates potential benefits from the pilot program. Doug Lape, UNC Charlotte's Associate Vice Chancellor, stated, “The intent of this pilot is to introduce autonomous technologies to the campus community and provide insight on how and where we may be able to leverage this and similar platforms on campus in the future.”
This pilot program at UNC Charlotte joins a series of recent AV shuttle initiatives launched by Beep, including deployments in Altamonte Springs, Florida, Cumberland and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as Orlando, Florida.
Beep CEO Joe Moye expressed confidence in the program, saying, “Our experience in deploying safe, effective shared autonomous mobility services for many thousands of passengers across the country will directly benefit the UNC Charlotte community in ensuring another positive result from this important program, which is transforming the future of mobility.”