By Hannah E. Jones
A new mode of transportation has come to Cobb County. Last week, the Cumberland Community Improvement District (CCID) debuted the Cumberland Hopper — an autonomous electric shuttle. The pilot program is running from now until March and will give folks another way to get around the Cumberland district.
Cumberland is an increasingly bustling area, with over 30,000 people living within the district and 84,000 people working there. It has a $23.6 billion annual impact on Georgia’s economy.
The new shuttle is offered in partnership with Beep, a transportation company offering autonomous mobility. The electric shuttles can carry up to eight passengers and travel up to 15 mph. The bus is self-driving, using sensors and GPS to navigate the route. There is also an onboard attendant who can manually take over the shuttle if needed.
This is Cobb County’s first autonomous, electric shuttle service.
During this eight-month pilot period, the Cumberland Hopper will travel along two routes. They will operate a route in the Cobb Galleria Centre and another across the bridge between the Galleria and The Battery Atlanta. The bus is free and open to the public.
“We realize that alternative transportation modes are really needed in the community,” CCID Executive Director Kim Menefee said. “This pilot is instrumental for us to learn and test the technology and introduce it to our community.”
In an area that’s only continuing to grow, the Cumberland Hopper will help cut down on congestion, CO2 emissions and parking spaces. The CCID team hopes the shuttle offers easy transportation for those working within Cobb Galleria and Truist Park, baseball fans and other visitors.
These routes are created to serve two different uses — including people doing business in the biggest office park in Cumberland and those going to a baseball game or another attraction at the Battery. The team encourages riders to share their feedback via this survey.
“It’s two different use cases and really looking at two different audiences,” Menefee said. “That’s our goal — we want to learn and we want to hear from the riders about their experience and expectations. From our perspective, we’ll also be looking at the operations in those two different environments over the next eight months.”
Racquel Isa, Beep’s chief marketing officer, added: “Kim and her team are testing [these two routes] because that’s where the growth is going to happen. It truly is intended to guide that long-term strategy because at the end of the day, those who are going to use it today are also going to use it in the future but on a much broader scale.”
From now until March, the CCID team will collect data about the shuttle’s performance to further develop its long-term Cumberland Sweep project. Launching in 2027, the Cumberland Sweep is a mobility project with plans for a three-plus mile path with an autonomous shuttle system and dedicated walking and biking lanes. This will allow residents and visitors to more easily access The Battery, Truist Park, Cumberland Mall, Cobb Galleria Centre, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
Overall, Menefee sees this as the start of something big for Cumberland and the metro area.
“This is transportation for the future,” Menefee said. “[Offering] this additional component is really the whole vision for the transportation future — reimagining how people move and get around our district. I think it’s going to become something that you’re going to see more and more.”