Transportation

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open 8:00 AM-4:30 PM M-F

703-877-5600
TTY 711

4050 Legato Road, Suite 400
Fairfax, VA 22033

Tom Biesiadny,
Director

Autonomous Electric Shuttle Pilot Project

Heads Up! Relay's service today will end at 1 p.m. due to scheduled maintenance. (10/27/20)

The pilot project team will test this driverless, public transportation option to evaluate its effectiveness and safety and see how it can be used as a “first and last-mile” transit option to “relay” riders and help connect the community, activate neighborhoods and attract businesses.

This pilot project is a partnership between Fairfax County, Dominion Energy, EDENS (Mosaic), The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and George Mason University (GMU). 

We want to hear from you!

Relay is an autonomous (self-driving) and 100 percent electric public transportation shuttle that will circulate between the Mosaic District and the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station. Although Relay is fully autonomous and equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as cameras, sensors and GPS, Relay will have a safety steward on board at all times.

George Mason University, in partnership with Fairfax County, is interested in learning what you think about autonomous (self-driving), 100% electric shuttles that could be used for public transportation. Please take our brief 10 minute survey.

About the Shuttle and How It Operates

How Does Relay Work?

Relay's software is programmed to follow a prerecorded path. It relies on several sensors (localization lasers, GPS, odometry and cameras) to navigate and orient in the environment and follow a predefined network of routes.
 

How does Relay navigate around obstacles?

Relay has various sensors and detection lasers installed all around the vehicle. The sensors and lasers help detect obstacles in several zones around the vehicle and determine the distance that separates them from the shuttle. The sensors and detection lasers are sensitive so it’s important that other vehicles do not travel or pass Relay   at close distances. Drivers should keep at least ten feet between their vehicles and Relay.

What happens when unexpected obstacles comes into the path of the vehicle?

Relay's sensors and lasers are constantly scanning the area around the vehicle. The software considers the vehicle’s path and determines the vehicle’s proper reaction to  detected obstacles including vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians.  In response to the environment the vehicle may slow or come  to a complete stop to avoid incident. Emergency stops in response to an unexpected obstacles may be abrupt and passengers must remain seated and wear a seatbelt at all times for safety.

How fast can Relay go?

Relay will operate at 10 mph.
 

How does Relay know where it is located?

The vehicle uses a combination of GPS signal, Lidars and predefined route programing to determine its location.
 

How far out can the lidars see?

Relay is outfitted with 3D lidar up to 262 feet and 2D Lidar up to 131 feet. Additionally, the localization lidar can scan up to 492 feet.
 

What are cameras in the front and rear of the vehicle for?

These cameras are used to aid in remote supervision of the vehicle. 
 

What is the source of power for Relay?

Four 48V lithium-ion batteries; and one 12V battery.


Relay can typically operate for 10-14 hours on a single charge. The variance depends on the specific power utilization from heat, air conditioning of other similar factors. It takes Relay's battery 6-8 hours to return to full charge.

Not to be too personal, but how much does Relay weigh?

Relay weighs 4,409 pounds.

What is Relay's maximum capacity?

Relay can hold 12 passengers or 2200 pounds with 6 seated and 6 standing.

When public service begins on Relay, service will be limited to 4 people total due to social distancing rules in effect.
 

Is Relay equipped with an emergency brake onboard?

Yes. Fail-safe brakes can be automatically activated to stop the vehicle even when there is no power, or when the vehicle is stationary.
 

How should other drivers interact with Relay?

Motorists following Relay should stay back at least ten feet. Do not use bike lanes or cross double yellow lines to pass Relay. Relay should only be passed when legal to do so. Drivers should pass Relay with care and enough space ONLY when a full lane is available.

As always, motorists should stay attentive and drive safely as they would when driving around any other vehicle on the road. Relay’s maximum speed is 10 miles per hour.

I have ADA needs, can I take a ride on Relay?

Yes we encourage you to come out and take a ride on Relay.  We have a ramp to get into the vehicle and we have restraints for any wheel chair or scooter that is required

Will Relay ever travel without the Safety Operator?

At this time there will always be a Safety Operator on board Relay.  There are expected to be passengers with ADA needs that the Safety Operator can assist with.  The Safety Operator will always be present to make sure all passengers are safe.

 

Relay has lots of cameras inside and outside the vehicle, is my privacy being protected?

Yes, your privacy is being protected. These cameras are on board to learn more about the movement of the vehicle and how passengers, pedestrians and other motorists interact with the vehicle.  

Will Relay operate in bad weather?

Relay will operate in light to moderate weather.  Heavy rain and snow does become a problem for Relay. Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will determine the operating status based on the severity of the weather. FCDOT will share operating status on social media on inclement weather days.

If Relay is sick or having a bad day will I be able to get to the Mosaic District from the Dunn Loring Station?

Yes, if Relay is having any issues, a regular vehicle will serve the route on Relay’s regular schedule between the Dunn Loring Metrorail station and the Mosaic District. 

SAFETY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

What Is Being Done to Keep Passengers Safe During COVID-19?

Safety is a top priority for this project, and keeping our employees and passengers safe requires constant diligence. Our strategies and actions include:


• All Transdev Safety Operators aboard our autonomous vehicles are required to wear masks and other protective personal equipment.
• We require passengers wear masks or other facial coverings to board our vehicles
• Safety Operators are provided with personal health and safety cleaning kits to spot-clean high-touch areas on the vehicles, such as the seatbelts and handrails.
• Limiting vehicle occupancy for 4 passengers to ensure room for proper social distancing

How Often Do You Clean the Shuttle?

Passengers and employees can trust that our vehicles are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly for our shared safety. Our strategies and actions include:
• Overnight deep cleaning and disinfection of all vehicles, following a master checklist.
• Interim spot cleaning and disinfecting vehicles during the day.
• The safety attendant also wipes down the common touch areas with disinfectant to ensure employee and passenger safety.

About the Pilot Project

Project Background

Fairfax County and Dominion Energy hope to learn about the various aspects of deploying autonomous electric vehicles as part of a large public transportation system. Fairfax County aims to be at the forefront of innovation by testing this smart technology for economic and environmental benefits, operational efficiencies, and as a first- and last-mile travel option connecting people from transit centers to employment, activity centers and residential communities.

As part of its strategic plan to grow and diversify the economy, Fairfax County continues to encourage innovation and testing of smart technologies to help expand existing business sectors, spark new business growth, nurture the innovation ecosystem, and strengthen partnerships with technology experts, researchers, educational institutions and policy makers.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is committed to ensuring Virginia is on the forefront of new mobility innovations, including the deployment of autonomous transit. DRPT is providing demonstration funds to offset the cost of operations and is evaluating how shuttles can provide critical first and last mile connections to transit.

Dominion Energy is committed to being a driver of change and supporting innovative projects that will both improve the environment and meet the needs of customers and the public. Electric vehicles, including autonomous electric shuttles, will play a major role in a lower-emissions transportation future in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the nation, and these innovative technologies will help Dominion Energy’s customers embrace environmental stewardship.

Next Steps

Fairfax County and Dominion Energy have partnered to launch an autonomous electric shuttle, Relay, that is operating between the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station and the Mosaic District in Fairfax County. It is the first test of driverless public transportation in the D.C. region, and it’s also the first state-funded autonomous transportation project in Virginia.

 

 

When will I be able to ride the shuttle?

The pilot project team is working to determine an official start date for the public to ride the shuttle at the completion of the testing phase.

What is the the shuttle’s route?

The shuttle travel between the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station and Mosaic in Merrifield. Signage has been installed along the testing route. At the conclusion of testing, the route should remain the same.

 

Will the shuttle be free to ride?

Yes! We are able to offer free service due to a DRPT grant and partnership with Dominion Energy which is providing the shuttle.

Do I need a ticket or pass to ride?

No — just get on and go!

Can anyone can ride the shuttle, including children?

Yes.

Who will operate the shuttle?

Fairfax County is responsible for overseeing the shuttle operations, and has chosen TransDev to manage the technology, maintain the vehicle, provide the safety attendants and oversee the vehicle and overall service.

What kind of self-driving shuttle will be used?

Following a RFP process conducted by Dominion Energy, EasyMile’s EZ10 model has been selected for the pilot. The EZ10 is currently deployed on public and private roads in more than 25 countries on 4 continents.

EasyMile’s EZ10 model:

  • has a proven track record of over 200 deployments,
  • holds up to 12 passengers,
  • features a full set of sensors, including Lidars, cameras, and GPS to ensure safety, and
  • features a built-in, automated electric wheelchair access ramp.

What are the safety features of the shuttle?

Safety is a top priority for this test.

  • The shuttle also will undergo extensive testing before entering passenger service.
  • The county will get a full transportation safety audit by the state, and has received approval from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
  • Finally, in the event of an emergency a safety steward will always be on board the shuttle, and this person will be able to shift to a manual operation if necessary.

How will the shuttle benefit the community/environment?

The shuttle will serve as a “first- and last-mile” connection between Metrorail and an award-winning mixed-use development, providing a convenient, environmentally friendly transit option for shoppers, visitors, and businesses. Since the shuttle is both autonomous and electric, it also helps commuters reduce their environmental impact and play a role in a lower-emissions transportation future.

What is the purpose of testing an autonomous electric shuttle?

Some reasons we are testing the autonomous electric shuttle in Fairfax County are:

  • To learn more about how this technology can be safely and effectively used in the future to offer additional mobility solutions,
  • To help familiarize people with new transportation technologies, and
  • To encourage environmentally friendly transportation solutions.

How is this pilot being funded?

This pilot is a public-private partnership. Local, state and private money will pay for this demonstration project. Fairfax County received a $250,000 DPRT grant that includes $50,000 in county matching funds. Dominion Energy is providing the shuttle and related charging infrastructure.

Stay Informed

Fairfax Virtual Assistant