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Driverless Buses Tested In Minnesota's Winter Weather

MONTICELLO (WCCO) – The Minnesota Department of Transportation debuted new technology Tuesday that's rarely been seen in Minnesota.

MnDOT, along with various partners, tested out self-driving buses that could carry commuters on the streets of Minnesota.

Minnesota transit leaders introduced the autonomous shuttle bus to the media at MnDOT's road research center in Monticello. Throughout the winter, the vehicle will go through a series of winter weather road condition tests.

The closed-loop facility is not open to other traffic so the driver-less bus will not be near other drivers, but it does allow it to be exposed to a variety of challenging road conditions, like salt and snow-covered roads.

MnDOT believes autonomous buses cut traffic and fuel demand and are safer than a normal car.

Similar test runs of the self-driving bus are expected to continue throughout the state through at least April of next year. There's no immediate timeline for what the next step would be.

If you want to check out self-driving buses, free rides will be offered during the week of the Super Bowl along Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

Commissioner Charles Zelle said the autonomous buses are not about replacing drivers, but they would be safer.

"Ninety-four percent of our crashes that we track are due to operator error," Zelle said. "I know as a driver when you have more technology to help you as a driver, that's a good thing."

For more information on the autonomous bus, click here.

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