Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman took a cruise down Fremont Street Tuesday afternoon that made history.
Goodman rode in the first completely autonomous, fully electric shuttle to ever be deployed on a public roadway in the United States.
The driverless vehicle — called Arma and developed by the Paris-based company Navya — will be making trips down Fremont Street from today to Jan. 20 as developers test the product.
“What a wonderful day for all of us to witness this,” Goodman said. “Being the control freak that I am, I was very nervous to get on this vehicle, but it is clean, has beautiful air and moves sort of swiftly but so beautifully down Fremont East.”
The vehicle holds a dozen passengers and operates safely at up to 27 miles per hour but will be limited to 12 mph during the trial period.
Rides are free during the testing period. The vehicle will drive along east Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street with regular street traffic from the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Las Vegas has always been on the cutting edge of technology for our citizens and our visitors,” said Jorge Cervantes, Las Vegas executive director of community development. “We have 40 million visitors a year here and traffic on the Strip and downtown gets very congested. The ability to move people more efficiently is something we’ve been looking at for a while.”
While the trial will last only two weeks, Cervantes says the driverless vehicles could be in full effect by late summer to early fall.
“It’s a matter of fine-tuning the technology to make sure it’s safe,” Cervantes said. “The last thing we want is for something to happen.”
The vehicle uses radar to detect and avoid obstacles in the road, as well as GPS technology to navigate the roads. Keolis, a world leader in public passenger transport, has partnered with NAVYA in the endeavor.
Mayor Goodman was joined by Las Vegas Councilmen Ricki Barlow and Bob Coffin on the vehicle’s maiden voyage.
“I think back as a young boy that played right here on Fremont Street,” Barlow said. “I also remember as a young boy watching “The Jetsons” with the vehicles that operated by themselves. Today, ladies and gentlemen, when you talk about innovation, we are living in the day of ‘The Jetsons.’”
The introductory ceremony appropriately took place just outside Container Park — the cornerstone of Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project. The city hopes its new “innovation district” on Fremont Street will become the destination for all companies to test their on-road technology.
“I’m delighted to be here at this wonderful place where Tony Hsieh has started to sink his millions — we really have seen growth,” Coffin said. “Humans are behind all of this, and it is with the human welfare in mind that we do all of these things.”
Navya Vice President Henri Coron said the vehicle and its services will cost about $10,000 per month.
That may sound pricey, but Cervantes said advertising could pay for a large portion of it. Businesses downtown have already expressed interest in advertising on the bus, on screens inside it and even paying to have stops near their business.
“Our goal is to try to make it as inexpensive as possible for people to ride, or even possibly free,” Cervantes said.
Navya already put the cars into use in France, transporting more than 100,000 people with a fleet of 30 vehicles since introducing them in late 2015. Las Vegas could become the first city in the U.S. to experience the service.
“What a great day for us,” Goodman said. “What a great day for technology, innovation, ingenuity and excitement in the great city of Las Vegas.”