Fairfax County, Virginia

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4050 Legato Road, Suite 400
Fairfax, VA 22033

Tom Biesiadny,

Autonomous Electric Shuttle Pilot Project

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). 

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

Beginning in the Summer of 2020, testing of the shuttle will begin on it's route from the Mosaic District in Merrifield to the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station. After testing is completed, there will be a public launch and members of the public will be invited to ride. 



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?


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.

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.

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 a detected obstacle, ranging from a slightly slowing down, to a complete stop, up to an emergency stop.

How fast can Relay go?

Relay is currently capped at 12.5 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.


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.

Stay Informed

Fairfax Virtual Assistant