Researchers are putting driverless shuttles on campus next year at the University of Michigan and the rides are free for students and teachers.
The project was created by Mcity, an autonomous and connected vehicle research center. It includes two shuttles running about every 10 minutes, with each carrying 15 passengers. The researchers chose a two-mile route between the North Campus Research Complex and the Lurie Engineering Center on the university campus. Initially operating during typical business hours, rides may be available even more of the day later on.
The vans, made by Navya Arma, are entirely electric. Each has plenty of equipment for both navigation and information-gathering. For navigation, they have LiDAR, and onboard cameras, GPS, and Wi-Fi for data gathering. The shuttles cannot move faster than 28 mph, presumably for the safety of others on campus.
The shuttles will be used not only to research driverless tech itself but also people's reactions to it. University of Michigan students and staff will be part of a — so far non-commercial, which is exciting in its own way — step forward in the real-world use of autonomous vehicles. Further implementation of driverless tech will need to account for other vehicles and pedestrians, and there's no better place than a college campus to test for that.