Beep to launch electric-autonomous shuttle system in Mississippi at MSU this fall

STARKVILLE, Miss.—In a groundbreaking move, Mississippi State University is once again leading the way in technology, innovation, and research by launching a pilot program for an electric-autonomous passenger shuttle system on campus and in the community this autumn.

Implemented by Beep, Inc., a prominent provider of autonomous and electric shared mobility solutions, this pioneering system will be the first of its kind in Mississippi and the Southeastern Conference, prioritizing safety, sustainability, accessibility, and efficiency.

Pictured is a concept of the type of Beep autonomous electric shuttle that will debut at MSU this fall. Actual shuttle art and design specs are forthcoming. (Photo submitted)

Introducing two shuttles, with a capacity of up to 11 passengers each, along with an onboard attendant, the pilot project is set to kick off in September. This initiative aims to assess how these autonomous vehicles complement existing modes of transportation on campus. The shuttle service will run two routes transporting students between central campus areas, housing facilities, and entertainment spots.

“We are delighted to unveil this innovative project, which has received approvals from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” stated Jeremiah Dumas, MSU’s executive director of transportation. Emphasizing safety as the top priority, Dumas assured that the vehicles will not exceed speeds of 25 mph on designated roads and will feature AI-enabled remote human supervision and self-governance. While autonomous, each shuttle will be staffed with a full-time attendant.

“This trained team member will manage the vehicle, assist passengers as needed, and act as a guide to provide information. These types of vehicles have gained popularity at various locations, including Yellowstone, Orlando, and Atlanta, showcasing widespread acceptance,” noted Dumas.

Beep will supply the autonomous mobility solutions, services, and electric vehicles to MSU from September 1 to November 30 during the trial period.

Beyond addressing campus transportation needs, the program will gather research data crucial for transportation planning in diverse urban and rural settings.

“Given MSU’s leadership in unmanned and autonomous vehicles, it is fitting for us to pioneer this technology on campus and within the local community,” highlighted Dumas. “Our Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and Raspet Flight Research Laboratory are actively engaged in researching autonomous vehicles.” He expressed interest in forming a research consortium with other institutions to expand the study on autonomous vehicles in rural-urban environments.

Following the university’s contract with Beep last December, the development phase of the pilot program is underway this spring, encompassing mapping routes and creating detailed scans in preparation for the fall launch. Beep is utilizing lidar technology for precise measurements to finalize the necessary digital maps.

“We view this as a long-term opportunity for the shuttles to become part of our daily transportation solution. Our main objective is to understand the potential of an autonomous mobility system like this on campus. Will they be efficient in areas with high ridership, or should we consider longer routes with fewer passengers? These questions remain unanswered, and we are eager to explore the possibilities,” shared Dumas. “Our decision to invest in this initiative was based on extensive research and analysis.”

Dumas indicated that as the fall semester approaches, students and community members can anticipate more information about the vehicles and program specifics.

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