Relay is the first all-electric, fully autonomous shuttle to operate on public streets in Virginia. It serves as another “first and last-mile” connection to transit options in the Dunn Loring/Merrifield region of Fairfax County, including one of the region’s most popular destinations: Mosaic.
The program 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).
Relay is part of Fairfax County’s efforts to grow and diversify its economy. As the County states:
“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.”
Although Relay is fully autonomous and equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as cameras, sensors, and GPS, Relay will always have a safety steward on board in. The shuttle relies on sensors and cameras to navigate and orient itself while following a predefined route between the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station and Mosaic.
Operating at 10 mph, it currently seats three passengers in a socially distanced setup, with the Safety Operator wearing a mask. In normal times, it will hold 12 passengers (6 seated and 6 standing). It is also ADA compliant, with a ramp to enter the vehicle and proper safety restraints available for passengers in wheelchairs. The onboard Safety Operator is also available to assist passengers with ADA needs.
Through Relay, Fairfax County and Dominion Energy are considering ways to deploy autonomous technology as a larger operation in Fairfax County. The shuttle is “the sort of thing we’d see in a “Star Wars” or a “Blade Runner” movie, without the vertical liftoff,” said Mark Webb, chief innovation officer at Dominion Energy, a partner in the project. Fairfax County officials remain hopeful that autonomous technology will also be the way of the future for the rest of Fairfax County.
“We understand the importance of first and last-mile connections for destinations like Mosaic both in Fairfax County and beyond, where the closest transit hub is just beyond what many consider their walking threshold,” says Lydia Shackelford, one of our Senior Associates at W+A who manages the Transportation Demand Management program (Mosaic Green Commute) for Mosaic. “This new autonomous shuttle, paired with the other first and last-mile connections Mosaic offers, like Capital Bikeshare, helps connect people to both Mosaic and the rest of the region without the need for a personal vehicle.”
Please contact our transportation demand management team with any questions or to better understand options for creating first and last-mile connections at your development.