This Solar-Powered Town Is Home To America’s First Self-Driving Shuttle Network
Later this year, if someone moves into a house in Babcock Ranch–a newly built, fully solar-powered town in Florida–they’ll be able to take an autonomous shuttle to the grocery store. The shuttles (powered by electricity from the community’s own massive solar farm) will be part of the first autonomous network in the country.
The shuttles are also the first step in an array of mobility options that residents will eventually be able to access from an app: autonomous pods that carry one or two people, larger autonomous buses, car-sharing, bike-sharing, and charter transit. The town, which will eventually be home to nearly 50,000 people, is also designed to be walkable. The long-term goal: If you live here, you’ll decide you don’t need to own a car.
“Right now, people generally have two cars,” Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, the development company that planned the ultra-sustainable 18,000-acre community, tells Fast Company. “What we’re hoping people realize when they move to Babcock Ranch is very quickly they’re only going to need one car, and then our ultimate goal is for them to realize they don’t need any cars. Think about what that means from a perspective of the home buyer–they now have a two-car garage that could be used for something else.”
Realizing that habits are hard to immediately change, the town was planned with the assumption that residents would move in with cars. But the design also assumes that personal vehicles, particularly those that run on gas, will become less and less common. “As we planned the community, it was with that in mind–someday, we’re not going to need these parking lots,” Kitson says. “There are parking lots that we put in that are designed to become parks, for example.”