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US Ignite announces the launch of the Mountain Express Automated Shuttle at Fort Carson, Colorado, a United States Army installation. The launch was celebrated with a local kickoff event led by Garrison Commander Colonel Nate Springer. The Mountain Express will provide passenger service on the post as part of a yearlong effort to test automated vehicle technologies and collect data for future transportation modeling on smart military installations across the country.
The launch marks a major milestone for Fort Carson, which kicked off a Smart Transportation Testbed project in 2019. The $4 million project, including the Mountain Express shuttle, is run by nonprofit US Ignite, with funding and management from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).
"We are excited to debut the Mountain Express shuttle service and see it as an opportunity to extend research on automated vehicles in ways that will benefit both military installations and smart communities pursuing advanced transportation solutions," said Eric Werner, Director of Autonomous Vehicle Programs at US Ignite. "This project has already progressed rapidly, and we look forward to further developments and research insights now that the shuttle has entered an operational stage."
The Mountain Express is an electric vehicle capable of performing all driving functions independently under certain conditions. Partner company First Transit is in charge of shuttle service operations at Fort Carson, and the vehicle itself is a Polaris GEM automated shuttle custom-configured by Perrone Robotics using their TONY (TO Navigate You) autonomy kit.
Starting this week, the Mountain Express will run a three-mile route every weeknight at Fort Carson from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. As a safety precaution, the vehicle will have an operator on board at all times with the ability to take over manual controls. Additional safety measures are in place to protect against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These include a clear barrier installed between rows of seats in the shuttle, and the completion of a full cleaning wipe-down after each shuttle loop. Face coverings are required for all passengers.