As promised, the Buckhead Coalition filed a bid for a self-driving shuttle test at Lenox Square mall on July 31, despite not having a required minimum financial pledge of $88,000 available.
A startup company called Local Motors is seeking pitches from metro Atlanta organizations to test its shuttle, dubbed the “Olli,” for a three-month trial run. Company spokesperson Nikki Jones said that there other Atlanta bidders as well, but declined to identify them.
Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell is supporting the Lenox Square bid, along with MARTA, the mall’s manager, an “autonomous vehicle” expert from the legal firm Dentons, and the executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, a self-taxing group of commercial property owners. MARTA is offering $44,000, the mall $5,000, and the Coalition $1,000, but the BCID board declined to fund the rest.
Massell said he’s offering “in-kind” use of the Coalition’s office space and other contributions instead of the remaining money.
“We think we’re presenting the perfect pitch for them,” said Massell, adding the group will see “if the actual cash in hand means more to them. That’s their decision.”
According to Local Motors, the winning entry will be chosen in late August or September, with a public announcement Oct. 1.
One of the judges, Jones said, is Cynthia Curry, a member of the Economic Development Team of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
The BCID board previously rejected participating directly in the shuttle entry, with members questioning the point of paying a startup to demonstrate unproven technology and its effect on an existing neighborhood shuttle system.
Update: This story has been updated with comment from Local Motors.