Beverly Hills to Develop Autonomous Vehicles

Illustration by: Peter Arkle

The driverless municipal shuttles are part of a larger program to upgrade the city's tech infrastructure.

The Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously this week to adopt a resolution to develop driverless vehicles that will provide public transportation throughout the city.

The program is part of Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch's plan for a municipally owned fleet of autonomous vehicles that would function as an on-demand car shuttle service to and from any address in the city. 

Because it comprises only 5.7 square miles, "Beverly Hills is the perfect community to take the lead and make this technology a reality," Mirisch said in a statement announcing the program. "It is now both feasible and safe for autonomous cars to be on the road."

Beverly Hills' plan to install a network of fiber-optic cable to provide high-speed internet access throughout the city will allow future autonomous vehicles to communicate with the city's electronic grid and with each other.

Deploying fully self-driving vehicles in an urban environment is complicated by the immense amount of data that the cars' onboard computers must analyze in order to avoid collisions with other cars and pedestrians.

The current generation of semi-autonomous systems, such as Tesla's Autopilot, rely on lasers, radar and visual data acquired through 3D cameras mounted on the cars to navigate, stay in lanes and avoid collisions. The systems work well in controlled-access driving, such as freeways and parking garages, but falter when confronted with a city's chaotic vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The Beverly Hills autonomous vehicle program will be the subject of a public summit to be held this fall at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Arts and will include demonstration rides and panel discussions with experts.

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