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Sunset Development Launches First Long-Term Autonomous Vehicle Testing At Bishop Ranch

Autonomous vehicles are rolling into Bishop Ranch.

Sunset Development Launches First Long-Term Autonomous Vehicle Testing At Bishop Ranch

Sunset Development Co. and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority began the nation's first long-term autonomous vehicle pilot program on Monday at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon. The vehicles from France-based EasyMile will eventually be used within the office park's parking lots.

“Autonomous shuttles have the ability to improve safety, benefit the environment, reduce congestion and make existing roads more efficient,” Sunset Development chairman and CEO Alex Mehran Sr. said.

Innovative transportation has been a perk for Bishop Ranch employees for over 35 years, according to Mehran. In 1982, it provided bus shuttles to transport employees to Bishop Ranch and now has 28 shuttles transporting 30,000 employees during the week. The office park also has ride-sharing, van pool sharing, shared vehicles and shared bikes.

“The autonomous vehicle is the next step in the evolving process to serving our customers' needs,” Mehran said.

Sunset Development invested about $500K to bring these vehicles to Bishop Ranch, a 585-acre campus with three miles of roads and huge parking lots.

Sunset Development Launches First Long-Term Autonomous Vehicle Testing At Bishop Ranch

CCTA executive director Randell Iwasaki said these vehicles are a first- and last-mile solution.

“This technology offers an innovative new approach to helping travelers get to transit stations, business districts and other local amenities without the hassle of driving and parking,” Iwasaki said.

In addition to testing EasyMile at the GoMentum Station, a five-acre testing facility in Concord, the CCTA has been testing Honda and Otto vehicles and will soon partner with a fourth company. The next step for Bishop Ranch and CCTA will be to receive permits from the DMV since the vehicles will eventually cross city streets between parking lots.

EasyMile has already deployed its vehicles at 50 sites in 14 countries, according to EasyMile marketing and communication representative Marion Lheritier. The pilot program at Bishop Ranch is its first long-term trial.

The EZ10 can carry up to 12 passengers with six sitting and six standing. It also is accessible for people with disabilities. It has no steering wheel and no pedal and offers a smooth and quiet ride. The vehicle can go between seven and 15 miles per hour.

The vehicle uses a virtual route pre-loaded with software as well as localization tech like GPS, detection lasers and other metrics. It has a 360-degree view and sensors to adapt and avoid any obstacles. During testing, the EZ10 vehicle quickly detected and stopped when a person walked in front of it.

The autonomous shuttle is 100% electric and can operate up to 14 hours per day and charges within six to eight hours, according to Lheritier. The EZ10 is designed for short distances between transportation hubs and a final destination or as mobility within a specific site such as city centers, airports and amusement parks.

“California is a leader in green technology and we are excited to be able to provide a vehicle to help meet the challenge of moving people safely and efficiently for years to come,” Lheritier said.

EasyMile was founded in 2014 and has offices in France, Singapore and Denver.