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Now you can ride a driverless shuttle in Las Vegas, for free

Hop On is the new driverless shuttle in Las Vegas.

The nation’s first driverless shuttle for public use will be picking up passengers and driving along a short loop in Las Vegas when the Consumer Electronics Show comes to town next week.

The autonomous vehicle, which launched in November, is limited to eight passengers as it travels along a 3/5-mile loop in downtown Las Vegas. Locals and tourists as well as CES delegates may ride for free.

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The electronics show, one of the biggest annual events in Las Vegas, runs Jan. 7-12.

The specific route for the Hop On project, a yearlong experiment incorporating new technology, may vary from day to day but will include three posted stops. One is at the Downtown Container Park at 7th and Fremont streets in the Fremont East entertainment district.

Rides are available daily. Hours may vary, but the shuttle generally operates between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The shuttle’s sponsors, AAA and Keolis North America, hope people will get aboard for a spin. Passengers also will be surveyed for their reaction to the driverless vehicle experience.

The route for the driverless shuttle includes a stop at the Downtown Container Park, where various boutiques operate in repurposed shipping containers.
The route for the driverless shuttle includes a stop at the Downtown Container Park, where various boutiques operate in repurposed shipping containers. (AAA NCNU)

Passengers who board the shuttle won’t see a steering wheel or a brake pedal but will see a sign in the window that says, “Look Ma, no driver.”

The autonomous shuttle relies on technology-driven tools such as cameras, GPS, radar and laser rangefinders to make driving decisions.

The shuttle didn’t have a glitch during thousands of hours of testing, but it was involved in a fender bender within hours of its Nov. 8 debut.

The shuttle was stopped but sensed a delivery truck was backing up and into it. The vehicle shifted into reverse to take evasive action but not quickly enough to avoid a collision.

Police officers said the truck’s driver was at fault and ticketed him.

Las Vegas was chosen as the proving ground for the autonomous vehicle partly because its dry climate would make “driving” easier, a AAA spokesperson said.

Las Vegas also promotes itself as a “smart city” and welcomes new technologies.

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