The University of Michigan has played home to some interesting developments in the self-driving space. Now its dedicated research facility, Mcity, is putting some of its expertise into practice by launching the campus' first driverless shuttles.

The service will carry passengers along a nonstop two-mile route (3.2 km) connecting the university's Lurie Engineering Center and its North Campus Research Complex. Two shuttles will cover the route every 10 minutes and will operate during business hours to start, though this could be expanded down the track if things go well.

UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS

More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.

UPGRADE

An autonomous, all-electric French-made shuttle called the Nayva Arma will service the route. It is capable of carrying 15 passengers at a top speed of 45 km/h (28 mph), and is designed for first and last-mile transportation in places like theme parks, universities and large work sites. It uses a combination of LIDAR, GPS, onboard cameras and Wi-Fi to build a view of its environment. The vehicle is already in use in several trials around the world, most notably at a 220-hectare power plant in Western France.

By deploying a couple of them this fall at Mcity, the on-campus test facility where we saw a 3D-printed autonomous car trialled in 2015, University of Michigan researchers will be looking to learn how passengers react to the vehicles, along with the responses from other road users as they wind their way across campus. The team will monitor rider numbers and usage patterns, and conduct user surveys all with the aim of designing safer autonomous vehicles that can run more efficiently.

"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 the Roger L. McCarthy Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Michigan. "The shuttles will augment U-M's busy campus bus service to provide another mobility option."

You can see the Nayva Arma in action, in the video below.

Source: University of Michigan