BISMARCK, N.D. — Bismarck officials are considering whether to permit a driverless bus onto downtown streets as part of a pilot program to test the use of autonomous vehicle technology.

City Engineer Gabe Schell told the Bismarck Tribune that the driverless bus would be rented from March through October 2019, if approved by the City Commission. The initial concept is to run a fixed route between downtown and the state Capitol grounds, which will allow the autonomous bus to use multiple systems to sense other vehicles or object along its path.

Schell said autonomous bus technology is being tested in other cities, including Las Vegas. Minnesota is also running a pilot program.

If the project wins approval, the city would then apply to the state for federal grant money to help pay the cost, which is estimated to be between $75,000 and $85,000. Bismarck would be required to fund 20 percent.

If the grant is awarded, the cost share could be included in next year’s budget. Otherwise, the city could pursue using local money to finance the project.

North Dakota is expected to have between $4.6 million and $7.6 million in federal grant funding that can be awarded to cities with populations of 5,000 or more.

The driverless bus would become part of the Capital Area Transit fleet. Schell said that the Bis-Man Transit executive director has already expressed support for the pilot program.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com