In the fall, two new automated vehicles will operate on North Campus, serving University of Michigan students and faculty.
The driverless shuttles will be monitored and studied by Mcity — the University’s nationally acclaimed test site for automated vehicles. They were acquired from NAVYA Technologies, a French company that works with such vehicles and became an affiliate member of Mcity last year.
The shuttles are entirely electric; they will each fit 15 passengers and travel a nonstop two-mile route between the Lurie Engineering Center and the North Campus Research Complex, according to a press release. They will contain a lidar to determine surroundings, a GPS, cameras and Wi-Fi communications.
According to Mcity Director Huei Peng, who is also the Roger L. McCarthy Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Mcity acquired the shuttles from NAVYA about six months ago, and they have been using and testing it since. The initial idea for the shuttles came from Mcity about two years ago.
In an email interview, Peng explained the shuttles are primarily for research use.
“It is mainly a research project, and deployment is how we obtain data and gain experience with how these low-speed autonomous vehicles in real world with actual riders,” he wrote. “The learning will also help to upgrade these vehicles so it is important from the technology viewpoint also. We estimate we will serve only…400-500 riders a day so it will not be a huge part of the campus-wide mobility service.”
University students will monitor user acceptance and user behavior, as well as interactions with other road users.
For now, these two shuttles are the only driverless vehicles operating on campus.
“Hours of operation and the service area could be increased later if the technology proves effective and consumer acceptance supports expansion,” Peng wrote.
In the press release, Christophe Sapet, the president and CEO of NAVYA said the company is proud to announce the partnership and shuttle experience.
“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,” he said.
ARMA is the name of the shuttle.
In December, the first NAVYA ARMA driverless shuttle in North America was launched at the Mcity testing site and was used to provide self-guided tours of the facility.
LSA junior Jacob Tanner, who studied engineering as a freshman and lived on North Campus as a sophomore, wrote in an email interview he is looking forward to the vehicle and feels it is important for the University to do such work with automated vehicles.
“I think it’s great that the University is an important center for the development of this technology, and I can’t wait to ride one of the shuttles for the first time,” he wrote.