Gainesville, FL: The inaugural AV shuttle ride took place at 100 SW First Ave. on Monday at 9 a.m. The event highlighted small city efforts to bridge together the Gainesville Innovation District, the downtown area and the University of Florida campus in a seamless, connected route using the newly launched Autonomous Transit Shuttle, which is still in its pilot phase.

The kick-off event highlighted the autobus addition to the options available to move around the city, which is a collaboration among the City of Gainesville, UF and the Florida Department of Transportation.

In attendance were members of the city’s legislation delegation, officials from UF and FDOT, and City Manager Lee Feldman. Guest speakers at the event included Gainesville Mayor Pro Tem Harvey Ward, Florida Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary, Strategic Development Tom Byron, PE and UF Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane.

With innovation and cutting-edge transportation in mind, the electricity-run autonomous bus is among the first in the nation to launch, establishing Gainesville as a leader in smarter options to get around the city. The futuristic feat is possible due to a $2.5 million grant from the FDOT.

John Fleming, managing partner of local developer Trimark Properties, which owns and manages several commercial office buildings in the region, shared how he thinks the shuttle will benefit the area.

“I am extremely excited to have this cutting edge connectivity,” Fleming said. “This vital and innovative solution to ‘the last mile’ continues to move Trimark’s vision of a vibrant and fully linked urban core forward.”

The proposed bus route runs between the parking garage on Southwest Second Street and UF Innovate | The Hub, which offers quick and streamlined transportation through the Gainesville Innovation District. The shuttle will run daily from 8 a.m. to noon and then from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Offering short, quick trips to increase mobility between hot spots such as offices, entertainment and restaurants, the autobus, which can fit up to 12 passengers, arrives at designated stops every 10 minutes during peak hours. This promotes a simpler and more connected option to move between popular locations in the city, especially for those working in the Gainesville Innovation District seeking efficient ways to travel between UF and downtown.

Now, the gaps between where one works and finds entertainment are closer together than ever, without having to find a new parking space. Autobus riders will find themselves able to enjoy more efficient links to the places they want to be in Gainesville. The shuttle will be free of charge during this pilot phase of the project.

Lauren Poe, mayor of the City of Gainesville, shared his thoughts on how the shuttle will benefit the community in modern ways.

“We will now be able to move people safely, quickly and comfortably between our downtown and the University of Florida, cutting right through the Innovation District,” said Poe. “This shuttle will create new economic opportunities, increase creative collisions between our neighbors, and serve as a model for how we can re-think first-mile and last-mile solutions for our entire city.”

The project was first revealed in August 2017 and testing began in August 2018. The autobuses underwent extensive testing while awaiting official permissions from the city and FDOT. Because the shuttle is still in its testing phases, an operator will be present on board to ensure rides run smoothly. Currently, the city is still working on obtaining waivers in order to move forward with more project phases.

The test shuttle is expected to run until June 17, 2020, according to the City of Gainesville.

“Hop on, the future is now,” Poe said.