New York based on-demand ride-share company Via is taking part in a pilot programme that integrates on-demand autonomous vehicles into existing public transport services in Arlington, Texas.

The city is carrying out the RAPID (rideshare, automation and payment integration demonstration) research programme following a $1.7 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to run autonomous vehicles as part of Via’s on-demand ride-share service.

Passengers use Via’s app to book a trip within the RAPID pilot area, which includes the central library, City Hall, University of Texas (UTA) at Arlington and a range of offices and restaurants.

Maggie Campbell, CEO of Downtown Arlington Management Corporation, says: “Downtown Arlington measures only about one square mile but has an abundance of small and medium-sized businesses, popular locally-owned restaurants, cultural destinations, residential communities, which together with the university generates strong demand for hyper-local movement within our district.”

Autonomous vehicle retrofitter May Mobility is providing five AVs for the pilot, with four hybrid electric Lexus RX 450 and one fully electric Polaris GEM, that can accommodate a wheelchair passenger. A safety driver will be onboard at all times.

Sharareh Kermanshachi, Principal Investigator for the University-based research team says, “The research is focused on assessing and comparing rider perceptions before, during and after the RAPID project to examine potential gaps in existing and new services, recommend strategies to overcome potential challenges of the AV system, and remove adoption barriers for an enhanced ridership experience.”