San Jose Authorizes Autonomous Cars for Airport to Train Station Link

  • San Jose began soliciting proposals for a link between its airport and its railway station in 2019.
  • On Tuesday, it authorized a plan from a tech firm call Glydways’ which makes autonomous cars hailed via app.
  • The company will build elevated pathways, financed through a public-private partnership.

Autonomous cars will traverse Silicon Valley from as soon as 2028 after San Jose authorized a plan on Tuesday to connect the city’s airport with its central railway station, Bloomberg reported.

The city started asking for companies to pitch proposals for a new link between the two transport hubs in 2019. Glydways – a San Francisco-based startup founded in 2016 – was selected over 20 other companies.

That included firms proposing traditional options like buses and trams, as well as Elon Musk’s Boring Company, which proposed digging an underground tunnel for self-driving cars.

But it was Glydways’ dedicated 5.5-foot-wide paths – less than half the width of a typical road lane – which most impressed the city, per Bloomberg. Its proposal includes building these paths, called “Glydways,” elevated above the street for the 4.3 mile journey. 

The personal rapid transit vehicles can carry up to four passengers, and cost $6 to ride. They don’t run to a constant schedule like buses or trains, instead being hailed via an app.

Plenary Group will help finance the plan via a public-private partnership, while the construction will be led by Webcor/Obayashi, which also built the Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco. 

“What is potentially exciting is taking a project that in other cities has cost multiple billions and structuring it around new technology and a public-private partnership,” said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, per Bloomberg. “In a sprawling city like San Jose, local light rail is a tough proposition.”

In a statement on LinkedIn, Glydways CEO Mark Seeger described the decision as “one of the most forward-looking decisions I have seen a municipality make.”

“San Jose has recognized that modernizing our ability to move will provide a multitude of opportunities for everyone- access to better jobs, affordable housing, education, healthcare and more,” he added.

Seeger also said the system “produces net-zero emissions” while also reducing traffic congestion, thereby reducing the city’s impact on climate change. 

In 2021, a business proposal Glydways shared with Insider’s Candy Cheng said the airport connector was projected to generate $586 million in revenue.

“If we get this right, we will shoot up into the billions of dollars valuation very, very quickly,” Seeger said.

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