LINCOLN, Neb. — Public officials are seeking private-sector partners to launch a driverless shuttle service downtown Lincoln.

State Sen. Mike Hilgers offered a resolution Wednesday asking the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee to look at the merits of a driverless shuttle pilot project in Lincoln and changes that would be necessary to state law, the Lincoln Journal Star reported ( ).

He said the program could reduce costs and congestion while helping Lincoln businesses.

The city was denied a $50 million federal grant last year that would have funded the project with 50 downtown shuttles and 650 passenger cars across Lincoln.

But network engineer David Young said that positive feedback has shown that one or more self-driving shuttle could hit the road as soon as 2018.

“We think it’s going to move pretty quickly,” he said. “This vision is every five minutes, a shuttle pulls in front of you.”

Young said that working with private companies and entities like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln would minimize the city’s costs because those entities could then market products they develop for Lincoln to sell to other communities.

Two potential partners with appeal are the university’s Raikes School, where students could design a smartphone application, and Kawasaki in Lincoln, which is seen as a prime candidate to manufacture the shuttles.

“We would definitely entertain the possibility of being involved in a project such as that” should the design specifications meet their strengths, said Kawasaki Lincoln senior manager Jason Hellbusch. “Kawasaki prides itself on our technology and our capabilities.”

No formal deals have been struck yet. Any pilot project involving driverless vehicles would also need approval by the City Council and action by the Legislature.

“We have some pretty big ideas around this,” Young said. “We think we can knock this out of the park.”

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,