Driverless bus comes to Bloomington


Pedestrians stop to peer into the self-driving bus and take pictures of it at its parked location on Kirkwood Avenue. EasyMile, a French autonomous vehicle maker, will be providing free rides in their EZ10 bus model to attendees on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

Bloomington will demonstrate driverless bus technology from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday on Kirkwood Avenue between Indiana Avenue and Lincoln Street. The event is the first in a series called Fast Forward Bloomington organizers say is designed to inspire local innovation. 

“We feel that this is the technology of the future, and we want to expose our citizens, our residents and our students to this opportunity,” City of Bloomington Communications Director Mary Catherine Carmichael said. 

EasyMile, a French autonomous vehicle maker, will be providing free rides in their EZ10 bus model to attendees. The EZ10 bus is capable of fitting 12 passengers inside at once and has transported over 180,000 people without a single accident, according to a City of Bloomington press release.

The autonomous vehicle uses GPS, lasers and cameras to safely guide the vehicle on the street, Bloomington Transit Director Lew May said. The EZ10 model is fully electric, making it more environmentally friendly than traditional cars.

Reservations for rides on the bus are already completely booked, according to the Eventbrite page for the demonstration, but Carmichael said if people come without a reservation, they're still likely to be able to ride. 

Carmichael said the city is looking toward the future, especially when it comes to public transportation.

“We’re sure that eventually Bloomington will have autonomous vehicles,” Carmichael said. The city is looking at Ann Arbor, Michigan as an example because they are already using driverless buses for public transportation. 

While the autonomous bus will be the main demonstration at the event, other activities, demonstrations and business specials will be part of Fast Forward Bloomington.

“It’s the real activation of Kirkwood that we’re excited about,” Carmichael said. 

Carmichael said there will be music, food vendors and multiple booths featuring different organizations from around Bloomington. Businesses on Kirkwood are encouraged to have futuristic-themed specials for attendees to take part in. 

There will also be a replica of the 1897 Howe Horseless Carriage, a car manufactured in Bloomington, out for display in People’s Park. 

The City of Bloomington plans to announce future Fast Forward Bloomington events closer to their dates. These events will feature different forward-thinking technologies. 

Kirkwood Avenue will be closed from Lincoln Street to Indiana Avenue from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Friday.

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