Driverless autonomous passenger vehicles coming to Walt Disney World?

Apr 29, 2017 in "Bus Transportation"

According to a report from the LA Times, Walt Disney World is about to launch one of the largest driverless passenger vehicle programs to date.

The article cites sources with direct knowledge of the program, suggesting that Disney is in final negotiations with two manufacturers of autonomous shuttles - Local Motors in Phoenix, and Navya in Paris.

A pilot program would initially be used to transport Cast Members around property with a long-term objective of the system ferrying around guests as early as 2018.

Disney appears to be concentrating its efforts on new transportation technologies, with recent speculation that a Walt Disney World Gondola system is about to begin construction to connect Walt Disney World resort hotels to the theme parks.

The resort's ageing monorail system is not seen as a long term solution to the resort's transportation requirements, and newer technologies such as gondolas and autonomous shuttles offer much more flexibility at a far lower cost.

Check out the video below for a closer look at the Navya autonomous shuttle.

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Article Posted: Apr 29, 2017 / 8:28pm EDT
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danlb_2000Sep 22, 2020

This highlights what I feel is the single biggest challenge for self driving cars. We already have a problem with people not paying attention to the road when driving normal cars, as the level of automation increases people are going to become even less attentive, so at some point you need to make the leap from driver assist to 100% perfect automation.

GringrinngghostSep 22, 2020

Just an Update: The woman operating a self-driving Uber that hit and killed the pedestrian in Tempe, AZ in March 2018 is facing a negligent homicide charge and possible prison time for not controlling the vehicle. She was watching the TV show, The Voice on one of her two phones when the Volvo SUV she was operating struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, according to a report from Tempe police. More here: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/tempe-breaking/2018/06/21/uber-self-driving-car-crash-tempe-police-elaine-herzberg/724344002/

GringrinngghostJun 20, 2018

Just a quick update to this, as I finally got around to read the NTSB support. It's quite damning for Uber but shows that the system did indeed work, up to the limitations that Uber set. Direct from the NTSB Report: According to data obtained from the self-driving system, the system first registered radar and LIDAR observations of the pedestrian about 6 seconds before impact, when the vehicle was traveling at 43 mph. As the vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle with varying expectations of future travel path. At 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed to mitigate a collision. According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator. The self-driving system data showed that the vehicle operator intervened less than a second before impact by engaging the steering wheel. The vehicle speed at impact was 39 mph. The operator began braking less than a second after the impact. The data also showed that all aspects of the self-driving system were operating normally at the time of the crash, and that there were no faults or diagnostic messages. Long Story Short, Uber is still in loads of trouble as they were testing on an established test route. Uber "relies on an attentive operator to intervene if the system fails to perform appropriately during testing. In addition, the operator is responsible for monitoring diagnostic messages that appear on an interface in the center stack of the vehicle dash and tagging events of interest for subsequent review." However, the vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action as the system is not designed to alert the operator. So, the system worked the way it was designed to, even as Uber disabled emergency breaking measures. While that would be common as of right now for an autonomous systems testing, as Dave Jones says in the video below (he did some math at the end to determine emergency breaking time aswell and the estimated speed at collision: "According to Uber emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior and there you go uber has basically admitted that when it's in autonomous driving mode they disable emergency braking and this is the big trade-off with autonomous car systems and the things that they're I think all of them are struggling to get right. All makers of autonomous car systems in that you can't just be braking and swerving for every little thing that you detect there's got to be some sort of you know threshold. " So It will be a while before you can see any form of autonomous car systems to be embraced by Disney. NTSB Report (4 Pages): https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HWY18MH010-prelim.pdf

_calebApr 04, 2018

I hope Disney brings in driverless buses on a closed course. They’d essentially work like the automated inter-terminal trains used in airports. Platform-level loading, multiple wide doors, destination-specific buses every two minutes. The benefit over trains/peoplemovers would be that buses could be rerouted if needed. Basically, it would be like getting on the parking tram but boarding from your resort. The closed course would take pedestrians and other drivers out of the equation.

briangawApr 03, 2018

Oh I do often and in certain conditions for the moment the current sensor packages on these vehicles can't beat human eyes. They are so close, but there are some remaining issues they are working. Great thing about Elon Musk he talks about it all the time and is pretty upfront with the issues.

larryzApr 03, 2018

I'll get that added when I get my cataracts swapped out... ;)

MisterPenguinApr 03, 2018

For your puny human eyes. Learn to see in infrared and ultraviolet and high dynamic ranges!

larryzApr 03, 2018

Try driving at night in the rain. Lane markers disappear.

briangawApr 03, 2018

While I completely agree with the sentiment of tomorrow being bright and that awesome achievements in science and technology happen everyday, I think some real and present challenges need to be discussed that bring down the tint level in the rose colored glasses that I too find myself wearing at times. While I have some issues with 1-4, will focus on 5 as it is the most on topic. 5. The technology is just not ready yet whether there were only self-driving cars on the road or not! That is a fact and even pioneers such as Elon Musk note this. There are road conditions such as fog and certain lighting especially on concrete roads where striping and lane markings become invisible to the current technology. It is amazing the wonder of the human eye paired with the human brain. And there are other hurtles too including car to car communication and others before T5 cars are truly ready. Testing facilities have begun being developed such as SunTrax in Florida to really put all the conditions out there and work out the remaining hurtles. The next jump in technology is the hard one and that is full autonomy, T5, with no human involvement. That is huge. A gigantic reason companies are balking at T3 and T4 is liability and human behavior. Much like this Uber accident and the Tesla one before it, if people feel their car is mostly autonomous they will stop paying attention. And then here is the big one. If a person gets in an accident, they have personal liability unless the non autonomous car or tires etc actually caused it and that is rare now. If an autonomous car gets in an accident and the person driving that T5 auto had turned it on right and did nothing wrong, it is that company producing that car who becomes liable. So even 500 deaths a year and countless nonfatal accidents by an autonomous car for a company could be a big hit to the company's pocket book. Also there is the perception of a new technology and the need to have a much higher standard, as it should. The pace of regulatory change and also the fact that the current US fleet of cars takes about 15 years to turnover (and that is without new technology to scare folks away who just don't like the idea) will slow how this all progresses. The technology out there right now still needs to be actively monitored and it is going to take a little to get to where that is reliably not the case. Actually, our city is getting the first autonomous bus/shuttle route that I know of at least in Florida, but it will still have a driver to monitor it. So it will happen, but I think this 10 year number that is quoted or astonishing pace is a little too rosy a projection. After all Knight Rider came out in 1982 and we still don't have KITT. We have to be a bit more realistic. We may see our first legally T5 driven car all regulatory approved and the driver not facing the road etc. driven by a regular consumer in 5-10 years, but it will be a long time even after that before 10% and 50% of cars in the US are T5 autonomous. And to the topic of the thread, so why would Disney take the risk? There is really no reason at this point. They would still need a driver to monitor per Florida law, so no labor savings. Just doesn't make sense. Yes maybe as a demonstration or cool pilot of one vehicle in employee parking lot so they can say they did it, but nothing wide scale.

RunnerEdApr 03, 2018

Mine as well. I'm not ready to live in the iRobot world just yet but I honestly don't believe that my great grandchildren will ever learn to drive a car. It's coming and will probably be normal in 10 years. WDW is a perfect place to test technology if they can control the roadways.

GoofyernmostApr 02, 2018

While I agree with the areas you would trust more then an otherwise engaged human, those that are engaged outnumber the others by a lot. At least, that has been my experience.

RunnerEdApr 02, 2018

No, of course not. The numbers are like predicting the home run and batting title winners in MLB based on the games played last week; There are guys hitting over .600 currently. When the sample size becomes more significant, I think we will have to make a choice of the safest method of transportation. Currently, I trust the Tesla self-drive technology more than I do a texting, drunk or otherwise impaired driver. Not so much with fully engaged humans.

GoofyernmostApr 02, 2018

Are you comparing millions of cars on the road with the 4 or 5 driver-less ones? I'd say the odds of becoming scrambled are a whole lot higher in a driver-less one right now.

RunnerEdApr 01, 2018

My thought on the self-driving car thing is this. This year, we have had one fatality caused by this technology. On average (using 2016 numbers from the USDOT), 3,121 fatalities occur on American roads. If it becomes a numbers game and humans kill 30,000+ per year while driverless kill 5,000+, I think I'll take my chances with driverless. At WDW, I hope they have special lanes for them so there is less interaction with regular vehicles.