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New York City’s first self-driving shuttle service launches today

August 7, 2019
A driverless shuttle vehicle in New York City's Brooklyn Navy Yard
A driverless shuttle vehicle in New York City's Brooklyn Navy YardAssociated Press

Six autonomous six-seater shuttles will be offering free rides around a one-mile loop of New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard.

If you can make it here ... : It’s the first driverless car service to launch in the Big Apple (most trials in the US have taken place in Arizona). The yard offers rides on a set loop in a predictable environment, though, so we’re still a long way from setting the technology free in the famously chaotic streets of Manhattan.

That said: It’s a first step. The cars are being operated by Optimus Ride, a company that spun out of MIT in 2015. The service will operate continuously between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. every weekday.

Falling out of love: The hype around fully autonomous vehicles has subsided, as the breathless promises of launches in 2020 hit the hard reality of complexity and failure. A woman was killed by a self-driving car being tested by Uber last year, and three Tesla drivers have died while relying on their autopilot systems. So what, say the technology’s boosters? People are killed every day by human drivers. That’s true. But the reality is that most people are still reluctant to trust machines to drive them, and there’s a long way to go to persuade them otherwise. 

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