Imagine tapping an app on your phone and just a few minutes later, a car shows up to take you wherever you want to go at an affordable price.

Oh right. You can already do that.

Now imagine that the vehicle pulling up to your curb has no driver. The city of Chamblee, along with several partners, is preparing for just that.

Chamblee is one of four cities across Georgia to win a grant from Georgia Tech’s Smart Communities Challenge. Chamblee will study how shared, autonomous vehicles – think a self-driving Uber or Lyft – and other autonomous and connected technologies may shape the future of the North DeKalb County city.

The city has already been studying a possible self-driving shuttle route that would connect major landmarks such as DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, MARTA’s Chamblee station, and the Centers for Disease Control, according to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The Smart Communities Challenge grant will help the city develop a pilot program for driverless shuttles based on its Self-Driving Shuttle Feasibility Study and Concept that was completed last year.

Chamblee bus rendering

“We’re looking to get Chamblee on the cutting edge of transportation technology and keep it there,” said Chamblee mayor Eric Clarkson. “The grant from the Smart Communities Challenge will provide valuable research on shared autonomous vehicles, like shuttles, for our city and the rest of the Atlanta region.”

Clarkson will discuss this and other matters as part of a panel discussion on Healthy Livable Communities at ARC’s ConnectATL summit on September 7.

The Smart Communities Grant will enable Chamblee to work with Georgia Tech to explore how the new technology might apply to Chamblee and the rest of the region. Among the questions they’ll be addressing:

  • How might shared, autonomous vehicles, such as a self-driving shuttle system, impact access to the Chamblee MARTA station?
  • How could Chamblee use this technology to improve riders’ interactions with the station and surrounding area?
  • What effect might shared, autonomous vehicles have on issues like sprawl, equity, safety, and public health?
  • How should the city address regulating the new technology?

Chamblee is joined in the Shared Autonomous Vehicle study by several partners, including the Assembly Community Improvement District, the City of Doraville, MARTA, and Stantec Consulting Services. This collective will share their findings with the rest of the region, particularly those communities along transit lines.

“We believe the autonomous shuttle will cement Chamblee and Doraville as leaders in technology, while advancing our economic development goals,” said Donna Pittman, Mayor of Doraville.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.