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Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa intros first driverless tour vehicle to public

TAMPA -- Imagine a vehicle that can drive on its own.

On Saturday, the public could take a ride in one for the first time.

The new driverless Meridian Shuttle is part of an exhibit that opens Saturday at MOSI. The vehicle allows up to eight people to ride around the first floor of the museum.

Museum of Science & Industry CEO Molly Demeulenaere said it's a big deal.

"This is the first time in the United States that the general public will be able to interact with an autonomous vehicle," she said.

On the driverless shuttle a touchscreen allows passengers to push a button and start the vehicle. Sensors make the shuttle move along a pre-mapped route.

At MOSI, the driverless vehicle is programmed to go 2 mph. The shuttle can go as fast as 25 mph and the vehicle stops when an object gets too close.

"It can avoid obstacles and pedestrians," said Pierre Lefevre of Induct Technologies.

Lefevre created the shuttle MOSI has on display. He came up with the idea in France 10 years ago.

"The very funny thing is to have a piece of metal moving by itself," Lefevre said.

The driverless shuttle is not the only technology to check out at MOSI. As people wait in line for the vehicle, there will be a double robotic presence to virtually interact with the museum staff.

"What it does it allows you to be virtually present at a place where you can't be physically present," said MOSI staff member Becca Robinson.

Later this summer, MOSI guests will also be invited to operate drones inside the building. It's part of a new exhibit at the museum called Innovate.

Demeulenaere said she hopes it sparks conversations among guests about the endless possibilities for the future.