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Driverless bus service gearing up for San Francisco’s Treasure Island

Service for a driverless shuttle for Treasure Island is expected to start this summer. | Courtesy San Francisco County Transportation Authority

If you’ve seen robotaxis all around San Francisco—brace yourself—because robo-buses may be hitting the streets next.

A new pilot autonomous shuttle service run by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority is poised to begin later this month on the island as a part of the latest self-driving vehicles to hit the city’s streets.

According to authority’s Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency, the free and fully electric autonomous shuttle, called the Loop, will pick up passengers along a fixed route that features seven stops concentrated on the core of Treasure Island.

Riders can expect the shuttle to operate seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with pickups scheduled every 25 minutes, according to the agency. The shuttle will also hit popular Treasure Island destinations such as the Ship Shape Community Center, Treasure Island Wines and the restaurant Mersea.

The driverless shuttle will also be able to accommodate wheelchair users and have an attendant on the vehicle at all times in case of an emergency, the transit authority said.

The pilot program began testing in June to “assess on-street AV functions and capabilities” of the shuttle. Passenger service is expected to last for nine months.

The announcement for Treasure Island’s move to test out driverless shuttles comes as a cohort of anti-autonomous vehicle activists have resorted to placing traffic cones on the hoods of Cruise and Waymo robotaxis around the city in order to stop the vehicles from operating.

Pete Wilson, vice president of the Muni drivers union, said that the Transport Workers Union Local 250A is against autonomous vehicles, including taxis.

“We support humans, and we support our brothers and sisters in the taxi industry,” Wilson said.

Matt Dorsey, supervisor for District 6, said the move to the driverless shuttle is “exciting” for the area.

“This is an important step toward helping us create a more sustainable, accessible community for the growing population of Treasure Island,” he said in a news release.

The shuttles were contracted through the Florida-based company Beep, which operates various other autonomous shuttle projects around the country, including a contract announced in April with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority for shuttle services at San Ramon’s Bishop Ranch business park.

“Our pilot service with [Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency] is a unique environment for our autonomous solutions to gather important data and learnings to support the future mobility strategy for the community,” Beep CEO Joe Moye said.