Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Autonomous Bus Pilot Project


MnDOT is exploring the safe use of an autonomous bus in cold weather climates to position itself as a leader in this fast emerging technology area.

By doing so, MnDOT will influence national policy and prepare Minnesota transportation owners and stakeholders for the future.

Why a bus?

Minnesota is a mass transit state. The population in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area alone is expected to double by 2040, increasing the need for public transit in the state.

Currently, many mid- to high-end personal vehicles for sale include some level of autonomous and connected features, but there is little research being done with transit buses.


Phase 1 of the pilot project began in February 2017. This phase includes soliciting technology partners to safely demonstrate how AV technology works in cold and snowy weather. This phase will define the project, perform preliminary engineering and solicit for AV technology partners.

Phase 2 will include a controlled demonstration at MnROAD, MnDOT’s pavement test track facility. This phase will identify risks and challenges for future implementation efforts. After a successful test at MnROAD, a live test could be conducted during the week of the 2018 Super Bowl.

Project goals

  1. Identify the challenges of operating autonomous vehicle technologies in snow/ice/salt conditions and test potential solutions through field testing on an active public roadway.
  2. Identify the challenges and strategies of having third parties safely operate autonomous vehicles on the State transportation system.
  3. Identify infrastructure gaps and solutions to safely operate autonomous vehicles on the State transportation system.
  4. Prepare transit for improving mobility services through autonomous vehicles.
  5. Increase Minnesota's influence and visibility on advancing autonomous vehicles/connected vehicles.
  6. Enhance partnerships between government and industry on advancing autonomous vehicles/connected vehicles in Minnesota