Hartford Business Journal: CTfastrak autonomous bus pilot program announces tech partner

Photo | Contributed CTfastrak buses run on a 9.4-mile busway that stretches from Hartford to New Britain.


Maryland-based Robotic Research LLC, which makes software for autonomous and robotic technology, will work with Connecticut’s Department of Transportation on a pilot program that will test autonomous buses on the CTfastrak busway.

In April, CTDOT received a $2 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority for a two-year program that will run autonomous buses on the Hartford-to-New Britain rapid transit bus line. The automated buses will use Robotic Research’s proprietary AutoDrive advanced driver-assistance system technology, according to the company.

“We applaud the USDOT and CTDOT for their support for innovation and autonomous transportation technology,” Robotic Research President Alberto Lacaze said.

CTDOT is one of 25 departments of transportation, municipalities or other entities to receive part of about $20.4 million in grants for transportation tech projects. The $2 million grant Connecticut received was among the largest, with only four others receiving more.

Connecticut’s pilot program will be run in partnership with bus maker New Flyer of America Inc., and DOT officials say if it’s successful it could lead to an expanded autonomous bus program.

Transportation officials say using the CTfastrak as a venue for testing eliminates many safety concerns that come along with autonomous vehicle testing. Only DOT buses are allowed to drive on the CTfastrak line, which has 10 stations providing service to New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford. The bus line is protected by guardrails on each side so no other vehicles can veer onto it.

During the pilot, drivers will sit in the driver’s seat, but allow automated technology to control most of the trip, except for parts of the route through heavily trafficked downtown Hartford.

The pilot program is slated to begin next year.

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