WATERLOO, Ont. – A pair of Canadian university students have developed a working prototype for a self-driving electric shuttle.
Alex Rodrigues and Michael Skupien of the University of Waterloo say they tested the driverless vehicle on campus roads on Tuesday.
“The test went perfectly,” Rodrigues said. “We did one lap, which took us about eight minutes, about 2.5 kilometres long and it was able to drive itself, stop for people as they crossed the road, stop for stop signs and do everything a regular human driver would do.”
The prototype is a golf cart but Rodrigues said he and Skupien will adapt the technology to a fully enclosed and electric 11-person shuttle, similar to a minibus. The vehicle requires no extra infrastructure around roads and can be programmed to follow any route, he said.
While other driverless vehicles are being developed and may take years before they reach public roads, Rodrigues said the shuttle could be ready for final testing and use on private spaces, such as university campuses, in 12 months.
“At 20 kilometres per hour our vehicle is inherently safe,” Rodrigues said. “And at the same time we’re going to be running on private roads where we don’t have to deal with state, provincial or federal governments. We’re dealing with individual private organizations and running the shuttle service for them.”
The shuttle uses two core systems to operate, one to navigate utilizing a military-grade GPS and a second to steer and decide speed by looking for obstacles with a sophisticated laser scanner.
While the duo are only working on developing the shuttle concept for now, Rodrigues says the project is a great “stepping stone” that could lead to other types of driverless vehicles in the future.
The prototype cost $50,000 to build and was developed in under a year.