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Self-driving vehicles come to Babcock

December 27, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

A Range Rover was crowded with people while a "driver" sat at the wheel. The only thing was, he wasn't turning the vehicle. It was turning itself.

Hundreds of people recently came to the center of town in Babcock Ranch off SR 31 just past the Lee/Charlotte county line to see and experience the future of driving, where you can text at the wheel without the fear of clobbering someone on the road.

People also got an opportunity to ride in the city's new shuttle service, also self-automated and powered by electricity.

Article Photos

A Range Rover with self-driving capability loads up another group of people during a demonstration of self-driving vehicles at Babcock Ranch on Friday.

CHUCK BALLARO

Much has been made of self-driving cars, with some makers already offering them to some extent.

They are gaining in popularity although for many, safety is a concern.

SAE International, an organization for engineering professionals in various industries, including automotive, and Perrone Robotics, wants out to take the fear out of self-driving cars by letting people experience them for themselves.

People were asked to take a survey before the ride to see how much they knew about automated cars. They then took a 10-minute ride through Babcock Ranch and finished the survey to get their reactions.

The driver had Level 4 capability on the car, which means the vehicle was automated, but the driver had the ability to take over, which he did approaching areas of construction or at the "finish line."

"We wanted to create an opportunity for people to experience automated vehicles," said Mary Moore, strategic marketing director at SAE. "We want to see how their perception of these cars might have changed based on that experience. Everyone I have talked to has been really excited."

Many of the questions people raised concerned what would happen if a dog ran out in front of the car (which actually happened the first day). Moore said in the past year there have not been many questions pertaining to safety, but rather when will the vehicle be ready.

Because the car has not been developed from the ground up, many of the sensors were outside the vehicles. Moore did not know when such a vehicle would be available for market and what the cost would be.

Eli Ghosa, demonstrated a Transdev driverless shuttle that can be sent on-demand through a telephone app. The shuttle has a route pre-programmed in the vehicle's software but, by using the app, the shuttle can be dispatched to meet people in town at a certain time and location and take them where they need to be.

On Wednesday, people got to test ride a Lime Electric Scooter

Frank Rodriguez, who is into robotics, said it was fantastic to be able to experience a self-driving car.

"Everybody wants to be in Netflix and that's something we can do while in the driver's seat. I think it's a safe technology and is very nice," Rodriguez said.

Ann Bergmann, of Naples, said she was pessimistic at first, but after riding in it, she felt very safe.

"It was well-controlled and the car as reacting to things around it. I want Babcock Ranch to succeed because it has all these innovative ideas," Bergmann said. "As we get older, a self-driving car is so much better. We need to be open to new ideas."

 
 

 

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