Wichita is looking at a pilot program to try out a couple of self-driving trolleys for the Q-Line.
These early vehicles would still need a driver to take over in case something goes wrong, and they would have some limitations. The trolleys being considered at the moment are limited to a 2-mile route.
Despite these limits, the trolleys may prove to be very efficient. Transit Director Mike Tann said the self-driving trolleys would work with traffic lights, cross-walks, and other systems, to maximize time-efficiency. The trolleys would be electric, which would come with the same maintenance savings the city expects to see with its electric buses.
If the city goes forward with the pilot, the project is expected to cost about $100,000. This could result in savings down the road though, if Wichita decides to adopt and expand the trolley system. If Wichita decides to test out the self-driving system, it wold take about six weeks to get it up and running. Transit Director Tann says a test would likely be planned between the Memorial and Labor Day holidays.
The self-driving trolley proposal is still in its infancy, and there is a lot that needs to be worked out. Tann says his department is working on getting a proposal ready for the City Council, which will decide if the project moves forward.