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Bloomington Tech Event To Feature Ride On Driverless Bus Today, Friday
Updated September 28, 2017 7:17 AM
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(BLOOMINGTON) - Bloomington officials are planning a two-day event highlighting cutting-edge technology such as driverless buses on a city street just off the Indiana University campus.

The city plans to close a three-block stretch of downtown's Kirkwood Avenue this morning until 4:30 p.m. Friday for its "Fast Forward Bloomington" event.

Open to the public, the event begins at 10 a.m. with Mayor John Hamilton and young guests taking the inaugural ride. The new City-sponsored Fast Forward Bloomington initiative will be a series of events highlighting the potential impact of cutting edge technology on the city.

In response to overwhelming demand for tickets to ride on the first autonomous bus demonstration in Bloomington, a limited number of additional walk-up spots have been added for the Friday event. The available spots are Friday afternoon during the lunch hour and between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Those interested in riding without already having reserved a seat with Eventbrite should go to the check-in tent located in front of the Monroe County Public Library. Those with reserved seats should check in at the tent located in front of Peoples Park, preferably 15 minutes prior to their scheduled ride time. All participants should come prepared to walk the distance along Kirkwood Avenue between Indiana Avenue and Lincoln Street in case their pickup location point changes.

Following his remarks at 9:45 a.m, Mayor John Hamilton will be joined for the kick-off ride by Carl Cook and Pete Yonkman from Cook Group, Inc., Susan Sandberg representing the Bloomington City Council, Lew May from Bloomington Transit, 10-year-old activist Zoe Waters from the Community Council on Accessibility, Provost Lauren Robel of Indiana University, Dr. Andrea Mobley from Monroe County Community School System, 12-year-old philanthropist Toby Thomassen, and Melanie Walker from TASUS Corporation.

In addition to the first demonstration of driverless bus technology in Indiana, this event is the first of the new Fast Forward Bloomington initiatives and will feature family-friendly activities on Kirkwood Avenue, from Indiana Avenue to Lincoln Street, including:

Interactive solar bike exhibit:

  • Monroe County Library
  • A replica of the first "horseless carriage" in Monroe County: Carl Cook
  • Electric Bike demonstration: Pedigo Bikes
  • Monroe County Energy Bus: Monroe County Energy Challenge
  • Indiana University Informatics, School of Engineering
  • POP! Placemaking Toolkit: City of Bloomington
  • Uel Zing Coffee Cart
  • Ice cream from Hartzell's

For those interested in only seeing the bus and taking photos, the bus will be available today from 1 p.m. to 7: p.m. on Kirkwood Avenue. Rides on the bus will not be available at this time.

Officials say the event will include demonstrations of electric bikes, a booth from IU's School of Informatics and Computing, music and food vendors.

"Driverless buses will certainly be in our future, so we're excited to be the first city in Indiana to have a public demonstration of this up-and-coming technology," Mayor John Hamilton said. "Technology changes the world every day and Fast Forward Bloomington experiences will give folks a hands-on feel for what's coming our way. It's important for our city to get a glimpse of our transportation future because we need to be planning for it now."

The driverless bus was created by French autonomous vehicle maker EasyMile. Fast Forward Bloomington will feature the EZ10, an electric model that can be adapted to complement existing public transportation systems by providing people with the missing first/last mile mobility link. The EZ10's potential applications extend to transportation alternatives for campuses, entertainment complexes, elderly care facilities, and more. The EZ10s have logged over 100,000 miles in 18 countries, transporting over 180,000 people without a single accident. The EZ10 accommodates up to twelve people and is equipped with an automatically deployed accessibility ramp.

"EasyMile is proud to partner with the City of Bloomington and Bloomington Transit to introduce their stakeholders to driverless technology," said Lauren Isaac, Director of Business Initiatives for EasyMile's North America operations.

"We believe Bloomington has the potential to be a leader in this space and we look forward to the demo and working together more in the future," she added.

In preparation for the demonstration, Kirkwood Avenue will be closed from Indiana Avenue to Lincoln Street all day today until the demonstration end at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Road access will return to normal at the completion of the event on Friday.

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