Mcity partnership to trial driverless shuttle service on University of Michigan campus


Following six months of trials, the Mcity public-private partnership will launch a driverless shuttle service on the University of Michigan’s (U-M) North Campus beginning this autumn, in order to gauge public reaction to the technology.

The service will use two fully automated, 15-passenger, all-electric shuttles manufactured by French company Navya to transport students, faculty and staff on a nonstop 2 mile-long (3.2km) route between the Lurie Engineering Center and the university’s North Campus Research Complex.

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. In addition to lidar scanners to build a view of the surrounding environment, and GPS for localization, the two shuttles will also be equipped with onboard cameras and wi-fi communications to capture data generated during operation.

As part of its mission to accelerate advanced mobility vehicles and technologies, 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, particularly as a means to solve first- and last-mile transportation problems.

Navya is an affiliate member of the Mcity partnership, and the first of its ARMA vehicles to operate in North America is based at the university, where it has been used to support research and to demonstrate automated vehicle technology. Due to its strong links with U-M, last week Navya announced that it will establish a manufacturing location in southeast Michigan, with an immediate objective to build 20 vehicles by the end of this year.

“This first-ever automated shuttle service on campus 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 U-M professor. “The shuttles will augment U-M’s busy campus bus service to provide another mobility option.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).