Orange County

Driverless bicycles in Carrboro?

It was a light-hearted jab that seemed almost plausible — self-driving bicycles in Carrboro.

Orange County Commissioner Mark Marcoplos said he wanted to interject a bit of humor into a dry transportation funding report from GoTriangle when he noted that Carrboro’s budget request included a pilot program for driverless bicycles.

“It was all in fun,” Marcoplos said.

“We’ve heard so much about the future and driverless cars from the opponents of the light rail project, it made me think of driverless bikes,” he explained.

Here is what his memo said:

“Also attached is a spreadsheet showing revenues and expenditures on various projects in this fiscal year. The amount listed next to Carrboro is due to a request they made for a pilot project involving driverless bicycles.”

When asked about the memo, Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils immediately smelled the hoax.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Seils said. “To be honest, it sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke.”

“Keep an eye on Marcoplos,” the alderman added. “He insists we maintain a sense of humor.”

Durham has dockless bikes from Limebike, Spin and Ofo scattered around town. Raleigh has them and motorized scooters, too. If ever there was a town ready to accept and try out driverless bikes, Carrboro would be high on the list.

Too bad they don’t exist, yet.

Google made a video showing driverless bicycles in 2016. The bicycles were shown traversing traffic, stopping to pick up riders and being hailed via a smartphone app — all autonomously. Set in Amsterdam, the video banked on the city’s reputation as being bicycle-friendly. The same could be said about Carrboro.

Marcoplos said he was unaware of the video when he made his report to the Board of Commissioners. A couple of weeks ago a constituent came across the report and shared the Google video with Marcoplos.

“I’d never seen it until then,” Marcoplos said. “It was a very believable video.”

The fact-checking website Snopes.com debunked the video as an April Fool’s joke within a month of its release. But it hasn’t stopped the video from being shared more than 8 million times.

And by the way, Carrboro’s transportation request of $927,565 to cover various bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the town was granted by GoTriangle.

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