Mcity will launch a driverless shuttle research project on the University of Michigan’s North Campus.
The project will use two fully-automated, 11-passenger, all-electric shuttles manufactured by French firm NAVYA to transport students, faculty, and staff on a one-mile route on the university’s North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) on Plymouth Road.
The project is the first driverless shuttle project in the United States focusing on user behavior research and data collection.
“This is a critical research project that will help us understand the challenges and opportunities presented by this type of mobility service and how people interact with it,” said Huei Peng, director of Mcity and the Roger L. McCarthy Professor of Mechanical Engineering at U-M.
Mcity is a U-M-led public-private partnership to accelerate advanced mobility vehicles and technologies.
In addition to lidar, which uses invisible laser beams to build a view of the surrounding environment, and GPS for localization, the two NAVYA ARMA shuttles will also be equipped with on-board cameras and Wi-Fi communications to capture data generated during operation.
Mcity will study how passengers react to the vehicle as a way to gauge consumer acceptance of the technology. Exterior cameras will capture the reaction and behavior of other road users, especially bicyclists and pedestrians. Mcity will also track ridership and usage patterns, and survey users about their experience. The data gathered will help researchers understand how to design safer vehicles and how to operate them more efficiently.
The shuttle service will run on U-M roads during business hours to start. There will be no cost to riders, and the two shuttles will cover the route roughly every 10 minutes. Hours of operation and the service area could be increased later if the technology proves effective and consumer acceptance supports expansion.
“After six successful months of working in partnership with Mcity, NAVYA is pleased to join in announcing a new campus mobility service that will use the NAVYA ARMA to transport students, faculty, and staff,” said NAVYA President and CEO Christophe Sapet.
NAVYA is an affiliate member of Mcity. The first of NAVYA’s ARMA vehicles to operate in North America is based at Mcity, where it is used to support research and to demonstrate automated vehicle technology.
ARMA shuttles are on the road in countries all over the world. They’re designed for use at a broad range of sites that need efficient, convenient, and safe first and last mile transportation—places such as theme parks and large campus-like environments.
Earlier this week, NAVYA announced that it will establish a manufacturing location in Southeast Michigan.
This story was updated on June 4, 2018, shuttle launch day, to reflect changes to the plan.
This story was written by Sue Carney.