Eventually, these shuttles will connect directly with the METRO, high-capacity, transit system. What makes the Houston METRO system unique is that is essentially a freeway-within-a-freeway, protected from single occupancy car traffic and with separate ingress and egress points for the buses that ply this 21st century alternative to rail (The Transportation Review Board posted an early review of the economics and utilization of this system as found in this PDF). This configuration of barrier protected HOV lanes with direct connector lanes to and from transit centers along the freeway corridors makes the METRO transitway system a great candidate for early deployment of autonomous buses.
The long-term goal is to connect Houston’s four main business districts. Lott suggests that transit centers, where the low-speed, first/last mile autonomous shuttles meet the longer-range, higher-speed autonomous buses, could be transformed into relatively high-density developments that become urban villages along the transit corridors. Lott says this is consistent with the long-term vision of the Houston-Galveston Area Council to create Livable Centers that are human-scale developments which reduce reliance on single occupancy vehicles.