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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Autonomous vehicle delivers food and innovation from The MAC to Growing Home

Autonomous vehicle delivers food and innovation from The MAC to Growing Home

“The eagle is on its way.” Nicknamed “the eagle” the city’s first autonomous, self-driving vehicle is delivering food from the city’s The MAC recreation center to a local food pantry, Growing Home. The vehicle is an innovative partnership between the city, Growing Home, EasyMile and US Ignite.

“After city facilities were closed due to COVID-19, our Parks, Recreation and Libraries Department sprung into action looking to see what we could do to help out community,” said Senior Management Analyst and project lead Skyler Beck. “One of the ways we’ve transitioned is changing the ballroom in The MAC into a food distribution center between the Food Bank of the Rockies and Growing Home.”

With many residents currently experiencing food insecurity, Growing Home’s food pantry operations have exploded. The city has used The MAC to store hygiene items, non-perishable and perishable foods. However, transporting these items to Growing Home has been inconsistent when using Growing Home’s transportation resources.

Enter EasyMile and their autonomous vehicle, the “EZ10.” The vehicle relies upon a mix of sensors and uses real-time data processing and algorithms to help it navigate its route without a human driver. The vehicle is zero-emission and its ultimate use as a shared mobility vehicle paves the way to more connected communities, less congestion and seamless public transport. It travels on Irving Street, then behind and around STEM Academy, before arriving at the back of Growing Home on 72nd Avenue to be unloaded.

“The distance between The MAC and Growing Home is less than a mile and we have been making two deliveries every morning of about 30 boxes or about 400 pounds of food and supplies, based on their requests,” said Beck. "We make the deliveries before they open their food pantry at 10 a.m.”

Washington, D.C.-based US Ignite made the introduction between the city and EasyMile as part of ongoing efforts to bring autonomous vehicle technology to more communities.

“We are proud to be able to show the potential of our technology and how it will benefit the future of communities such as the city of Westminster,” said Senior Vice President of EasyMile Sharad Agarwal. “We’re also grateful for the speedy approvals received from both the federal and state government thanks to U.S. Ignite’s help that enabled us to make this happen so quickly.”

Several city departments have contributed to the success of the autonomous vehicle’s food transportation. The Fire Department worked with EasyMile to inspect the vehicle and confirm it was safe to be on the road. The Police Department helped plan the vehicle’s route and place safety cones along parts of 72nd Avenue when the vehicle goes against traffic for about 75 feet. They also trained PR&L staff to be flaggers along the vehicle’s route to stop traffic, if needed.

“The vehicle has been an amazing and innovative addition to the city as we help Growing Home,” said Beck. “For anybody who wants to help with the food pantry’s needs, we recommend people get involved in the city’s Front Porch Food Drive to donate.”

“I would like to give kudos to all the city staff who have helped us make this happen, but especially Assistant Recreation Facilities Supervisor Steve Thomas and Recreation Supervisor Deb Larsen,” said Beck. “They have really stepped up and I appreciate their organizational efforts and dedication. Thank you!”

The autonomous vehicle is scheduled to assist the food delivery program through the end of June.

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