You Can Motor Around PVD In A Cute, Driverless Bus, & OMG
Maybe you’ve seen these odd little cars on Valley Street, or up by the Providence Place Mall?
They’re the Little Roady Autonomous Shuttles, and they’re in town for a year as a pilot program by RIDOT.
Starting in May, the shuttles have been running a loop from 6:30am to 6:30pm, seven days a week. I hopped one in Olneyville Square to ride the full loop.
Each car has a name, and I started out in Marimba, with attendant Rashida. We turned onto Manton Avenue, past the Dunkin’ and down Delaine Street to Valley.
”It’s like The Flintstones meets The Jetsons,” Rashida said of the car. She’s not wrong. The flat-bottomed interior feels like you could put your feet on the ground and trot the chassis up to speed, while the clear lucite roof adds a mini spaceship vibe. The four single-seat captain’s chairs are pretty comfortable, and huge windows that open fully give off a sort of futuristic tour bus vibe.
The weather was perfect for an open air ride, and Rashida assured me that air conditioning is due to be installed soon.
We cruised up Valley Street, past Rising Sun Mills, to the hub, where Rashida got out to take a break. Enter Dan, our attendant for the rest of the ride.
Dan’s been “driving” for Little Roady since the program started in May. He enjoys the work, and says it offers good pay and benefits. He’s also very knowledgeable about the cars and the company, May Mobility.
We zipped up Valley, maxing out the vehicle’s top speed of 25mph. Dan tells me there are 5-6 vehicles on the loop at any one time (every 10-15 minutes), and we did cross paths with other vehicles a few times.
The loop links a few important landmarks for the community, including Price Rite grocery store,
Providence Place Mall,
the Amtrak/Metro station, and
the State House/RIDOT
and then back down to Francis Street and along the same route to Olneyville.
The shuttle also makes stops at recreational sites like Donigian Park and the Water Fire Arts Center and businesses at Rising Sun Mills and The Plant.
Getting to these spots can be a hike from bus stops in Olneyville Square and at the Price Rite on Atwells. Having service up Valley Street means people can access these open spaces, businesses, and restaurants without having to drive and park.
My only problem with the shuttles are the hours of operation. They stop at 6:30pm. I wish they’d go until 9 or 10, and let the after-work crowd take advantage of the galleries, dining, and culture that are building up in Olneyville. That would make a good service great.
**Little Roady service was suspended during the recent heatwave in RI this past weekend. Check out LittleRoady.com for updates and info about when it will start running again.
More About The Author
Erika has been writing I Heart Rhody since 2010. A newcomer to Rhode Island, she started documenting her travels and adventures around the OS, and fell in love with the art, cultures and history of the state. IHR regularly features interviews with Rhode Island artists and makers. Follow on Twitter @iheartrhody, Facebook @iheartrhody ,and Insta: @iheartrhody.