JFK Airport offers Eyewitness News exclusive ride aboard new driverless shuttle

Josh Einiger Image
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
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The future is taking off at JFK Airport, where a driverless shuttle is being tested out that would take passengers to the long-term parking lot. Josh Einiger got an exclusive ride.

QUEENS, New York (WABC) -- The future is taking off at John F. Kennedy Airport, where a driverless shuttle is being tested out that would take passengers to and from the long-term parking lot.

Eyewitness News went along for an exclusive ride in the prototype passenger shuttle, which has four wheels, 12 seats, but the twist is that there is not a single driver on board.

"We hope it's very exciting for your first ride and very boring for your second ride thereafter," said Seth Wainer of Port Authority.

Wainer is in charge of innovation at the Port Authority. At Aqueduct Racetrack on Tuesday, his team put so-called autonomous vehicles, or AV's, through their paces as they consider buying a few as a pilot program, to transport real, live passengers at JFK.

"We're thinking heavily about how do we thread through these more long-term innovative elements into the experience, and we hope very much it'll be just as important to the traveler as getting from here to there, as a beautiful walkway or promenade," Wainer said. "We think this is a really exciting flexible way to do that."

The vehicles are basically silent and are fully electric, meaning zero emissions.

"It's going to stop for whatever obstacle may be in front of it," said John Balon of Navya.

Navya is the first of several AV manufacturers the Port Authority is considering for this investment. He says the shuttle just goes where it's told.

"Along with the shuttle running a predetermined path there's a sensor set of eight sensors that scan the area at all times," Balon said.

Less than half the cost of an electric bus, the shuttles first would replace a bus at the long-term Howard Beach parking lot.

"In the current climate, specifically around climate crisis," Wainer said. "We just need to demand more from our public sector and our public sector needs to step up and meet that demand."

If the Port Authority moves ahead with the concept, JFK will be North America's first airport to deploy this type of technology.

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