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Would You Trust an Automated Vehicle to Drive You Around Walt Disney World?

Just a few weeks ago it was confirmed that Disney is indeed working on a project to bring elevated gondolas to Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and now it looks like Disney may be adding another big transportation option to the resort. According to a report from the LA Times, Disney is in final negotiations with two manufacturers of driverless autonomous shuttles to bring this technologically advanced transportation method to the resort.

This is certainly quite a bombshell, and if the report wasn't so well-sourced, we'd be tempted to simply discount this rumor altogether. However, when we consider some other things happening around the resort, we can't help but feel like driverless cars might actually become a reality in the very near future. And here's why:

1. Disney has needed a transportation overhaul for some time

Image: Disney

Though you might not know it from just a visit or two, Disney's transportation system has actually aged very poorly. The refurbishment several years ago that was supposed to fully automate the monorail and make it more efficient has resulted in more downtime than ever. However, perhaps the more pressing issue is that of Disney's bus fleet, which is the main transportation method for the majority of resort guests, and is in very worn condition. 

Of course, Disney already knows this, which is why they were so quick to draw up plans and approve the overhead gondola project. And while this ambitious new idea may do quite a bit to relieve pressure on the busses and boats that serve Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot, it won't solve the problem completely, which is where this new system might come in. But why driverless vehicles?

2. Inventing the future

Image: Disney

Though you might not know this driverless shuttle companies have actually been testing autonomous vehicles with public passengers in business parks and college campuses in several locations around the world, including Finland, Singapore, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. Thus far, these tests have gone well, but this technology is still new enough that most people probably don't even know it exists. And that's exactly why it would be perfect for Walt Disney World. 

Disney has always had an eye towards the future, and though the Tomorrowland problem has proved to be a challenge in recent decades, attractions like the Peoplemover and of course the iconic Walt Disney World monorail have always represented the possibility of future transportation. 

In the same way, this new transportation method could be an evolution of the concept, where Disney harnesses an up and coming technology for use at its parks in an effort to continue Walt Disney's forward thinking vision. However, there are also some practical considerations to think about here as well...

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There are 2 comments.

I'd be game for driver-less vehicles. If they are truly tested. I think they would help "direct" transportation in Disney. One of my biggest complaints is trying to "resort hop". Nothing like staying at All-Star and having reservations at Ohana. You have to get to either MK or Epcot, then take the Monorail or Ferry over to the Poly. It would be so much nicer if Disney offered resort guests a direct transportation option. Confirm it with your hotel concierge (or guest services at the park?) so people can't just schedule a ride home and bypass the main guest line. You would need a dining reservation.

Given the extent to which driverless technology has been tested and vetted over the past several years by various companies, and the level of customer service that Disney prides itself on, I'd certainly give driverless vehicles at WDW a try. Tourists (including myself) unfamiliar with the area roads are a far greater danger than anything driverless tech has shown thus far. My greater concerns are capacity (how many vehicles would be needed to make a dent in transportation times?) and maintenance (the costs of keeping up such a large number of vehicles).

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