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Self-driving shuttle project cruises into northern Minnesota

MnDOT launches goMARTI, a self-driving shuttle project, in Grand Rapids.
Credit: goMARTI

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is launching a pilot program in Grand Rapids that will help people get around the northern woods using state-of-the-art technology: a fleet of self-driving vehicles.

The goMARTI (Minnesota's Autonomous Rural Transit Initiative) is an 18-month project that officials say is one of the biggest self-driving initiatives in a rural region like northern Minnesota.

Five autonomous shuttles, which includes three wheelchair-accessible vehicles, will cover nearly 17 square miles and include approximately 70 pickup and drop off points in Grand Rapids.

"Riders can access a free, on-demand shuttle by downloading an app and scheduling a ride, or by calling 211," according to the MnDOT news release.

Officials say all the shuttles are self-driving but the vehicles will all have an operator onboard to monitor the operation of the vehicle and help passengers when needed. 

The vehicles are hi-tech Toyota Sienna minivans called Sienna Autono-MaaS, or S-AM. 

The hours of operations could change but the fleet plans on rolling Tuesday through Sunday.

"MnDOT continues its commitment to collaborate with local communities and valued partners to find innovative ways to provide safe, accessible transportation options for all Minnesotans," said MnDOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger in the news release. "The goMARTI demonstration project will provide great insight on how the technology stands up in rural Minnesota winter conditions."

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