- Boston-based Optimus Ride will provide three autonomous vehicles (AVs) to a $1.4 billion mixed-use development in Reston, VA in partnership with developer Brookfield Properties, the company announced Thursday.
- Starting in June, tenants will be able to reserve spots or request on-demand rides on the autonomous shuttles, which will travel around the 3.5-million-square-foot Halley Rise office park. The partnership could eventually expand to other Brookfield developments.
- When fully completed in 2026, Halley Rise — located adjacent to a rail station in Washington, DC's Metrorail system — will contain 1,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and 250,000 square feet of retail.
The Halley Rise partnership represents a small debut for Optimus Ride, an offshoot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The shuttles will be geofenced, restricting them solely to the development, and will run on a fixed loop (the shuttles will also be monitored by an on-site “operations team”).
Similar autonomous shuttle networks have cropped up around the country. May Mobility is running shuttles to serve employees of property management firm Bedrock in Detroit and on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, MI. Meanwhile, Austin, TX is testing shuttles between downtown transit stops, and Las Vegas has tested them on a half-mile loop. A planned community in Florida had even piloted an autonomous school bus before it was halted after an intervention from federal regulators.
Shuttles running at low speeds and on fixed routes are lower risk than putting self-driving cars on busy urban streets, helping people to get familiar with the technology without also being behind the wheel. The shuttles also provide a service to developers of large-scale properties, since they offer a low-energy and relatively safe way to transport tenants and residents.
As the technology becomes more commonplace, expect more campuses to seek out their own autonomous shuttle fleets, whether they be mixed use developments or business parks, like Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2) or Apple’s new Austin, TX campus.