The vast majority of the media regarding driverless vehicles is focused on passenger cars. The challenge with this mode is that people expect their personal vehicles to take them everywhere, which requires a Level 5, fully automated driverless vehicle. Right now – the automakers would be thrilled if they could even achieve Level 4 based on this article: “GM has not been as detailed in its plans for the future as Ford and Tesla, who have both said they want to achieve Level 4 autonomy in the next few years.” The reality is that Level 5 is not going to be here anytime soon.
In the meantime, driverless shuttles are actually operating at Level 4 automation TODAY! This means that driverless shuttles can operate autonomously in constrained environments (e.g, campuses, airports, and employment centers). They are a great way to introduce the general public and government stakeholders to the technology while still serving a purpose and they can introduce the driverless technology via shared rides!
Driverless shuttles also present an immediate opportunity for transit agencies to test out the technology and start to incorporate it into their operations. Driverless shuttles can provide first/last mile solutions or circulator services (amongst other examples) and they can be accessible and “green.” As you can see on EasyMile’s website, there are already great examples happening around the world, including in Paris connecting rail stations, in Singapore at a Botanical Garden, and in Arlington, Texas connecting two sport arenas in Arlington, Texas (the latter starting later this year!).
OK, it’s time to admit that I just switched jobs and I now work for EasyMile, a driverless technology company that specializes in driverless shuttles (check out the EZ10 in action). For that reason, this is an entirely biased (yet true!) blog post! And now you know who to contact if you’re interested in bringing an EZ10 to your venue!
I have been following your “Driving Towards Driverless Cars” blog for a while, and enjoy the posts. I saw you mentioned that you are now working with one of the suppliers of the relatively new crop of driverless shuttles, I know these are from a few different suppliers (the one I was familiar with is Olli), and they all seem to have a uniform look/feel/form factor.
I’m curious, is the uniformity of these driverless shuttles due to it being easier to design and work with something akin to a large “car” or because the testing of these is much more suited to business parks, campuses, etc. where a vehicle of this size can maneuver around easily, whereas something like a standard 40’ bus would have more trouble?
I’m asking because I would like to know if it is likely that the technology that makes these possible will work its way into 35’, 40’ or even 60’ articulated buses in the near future. Is that on the horizon? It would seem like it could be made to happen if all it would require is putting the technology into a larger “box”, but I haven’t read much about this aspect of driverless shuttles. Is that still a long way off given that the application of these shuttles seems very much limited to “traffic lite” in that they are not operating in regular mixed traffic? Or is it bound to happen very soon? Or are there a number of issues that would delay this from occurring?
Just curious. This is an interesting field, and these new shuttles are very neat; I’m just interested to see how fast the technology will be introduced into larger vehicles.
David Patman, P.Eng.
Senior Transit Planner
Lauren: Congrats on your job move. Good luck with driverless shuttles…I will certainly drop you a note when I use my first driverless shuttle! Take a care and good luck for your new job. P
Prashant Jawalikar firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 510 316 7850
Hi Lauren, Congratulations on the new job. They are lucky to have you!
Send me your new email address when you get a chance.
It’s true, several European projects have resulted in shuttle-type operations as demonstrations or as ongoing services, and are under-recognised, perhaps because of a stronger interest in flexible personal transport in the open traffic environment. One day, maybe.
However, I’d like to respond to David Patnam’s question. In 1983 I was asked by IAD Ltd to lead a small engineering design team to develop the FLYDA concept for proof-of-concept. I wouldn’t claim we, or the client, originated the format, but it had a row of three seats across each end, facing each other across the middle, and room for another six standing passengers and a pair of sliding (or alternatively plug) doors on each side. There were plans for a 16-passenger version, not part of our project. These pods which we called cabins were autonomous, could be summoned remotely, but could form platoons. There is nothing new, the format just seemed logical when we took it on and we found nothing better
The big difference was that they ran cantilevered off a static quasi-monorail concrete beam track at ground level or elevated on slender columns between stops, thus being inexpensive to string across existing urban environments. The track had no points (switches), route selection at junctions being achieved by a single wheel above the cabin moved across to pick up the branch track. Although proposed for several developments (airports, cities, tourist attractions, …) more conventional, expensive and heavier systems won out, although not all trouble free. For a retrospective, see http://www.railtechnologymagazine.com/Rail-Industry-Focus-/Page-2/flyda-mass-transit-systems