GSP Airport Commission approves project to explore electric, self-driving shuttle system


GREER, SC (WSPA) – The Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport recently approved a project to further explore a new electric, self-driving shuttle system.

7NEWS spoke exclusively with airport directors on Friday to hear more about the cutting-edge technology.

With millions of travelers coming and going annually through GSP Airport, directors said they are constantly changing their facilities to accommodate growth.

“We want to make sure that we can be as safe and efficient as possible, but sustainable moving forward. We are always looking at a 40-year planning cycle for airports because GSP has been growing in leaps and bounds in the last few years, but the Upstate has been growing too,” said Tom Tyra, Director of Communications for Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport .

This month, the GSP Airport Commission decided to further explore a potential development of an automated transit network at GSP.

According to airport officials, it is conducted under a Project Development Agreement with Plenary Americas US Holding Inc.

Courtesy: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport

“These are autonomous, all-electric vehicles that would transport passengers and employees from parking lots to and from the terminal,” said Tyra.

It’s the future of transportation, also known as a self-driving shuttle system, that was proposed at the Upstate air hub.

GSP’s investigation of all-electric automated vehicle technology began in 2015 when a study was conducted to determine an alternative of providing gasoline-powered shuttle buses to and from the airport’s parking lots.

In 2016, the airport expanded its research to include how automated vehicles could be offered on an on-demand basis.

The new project will further those investigations by studying how a system of electric motorized vehicles and dedicated roadways can be accommodated at GSP.

“These would be individual, autonomous vehicles. They are vehicles that would hold maybe 15-20 passengers each,” Tyra explained. “It would be on demand, so as you need them in the parking lots, these vehicles would be dispatched to pick you up and take you directly to your destination.”

“It would be on a dedicated roadway so they would not mixed in with regular traffic, but there would be no drivers. It’s all automated,” said Tyra.

While the cutting-edge project is received, airport directors said it’s not quite ready to be rolled out to the public.

In fact, they said it could be more than a year before it gets a stamp of approval.

“We are not planning on having anything for the public right now. We are going to go through this 18-month project and after that, if we decide to move forward, there will be a construction phase,” said Tyra.

However, leaders at GSP said the project is already trending in the right direction.

“We did a demonstration a few months ago and it was very successful. We have a brand-new parking lot set up and set up a designated track where it had multiple stops in picking up people on-demand and it passed with flying colors. So, we are very impressed with the technology,” said Tyra.

Airport directors said if the project is approved, the earliest travelers could see the new system in place would be in two to three years.

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