Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Santa Clara University Gets First U.S. College Self-Driving Shuttle

The self-driving shuttle on Santa Clara University's campus,
along with it's engineers.
Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA is attempting to reduce car use on campus. It has come a little closer with a recent pilot program. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an autonomous shuttle has recently started driving the one mile loop around campus with five designated stops, enabling people to leave their vehicles off-campus and jump on the shuttle. This is the first self-driving shuttle on a U.S. college campus.

The shuttle has a safety engineer on board but drives itself. The pilot program started in November and runs through February, after which the school will decide whether it wants to continue — and whether it will let the shuttle run without a human driver. There could be some other tweeks as well if the shuttle stays. Boxy and high-roofed, the shuttle is a $30,000 four-person electric vehicle called the Polaris GEM. Basically it's a glorified golf cart that travels campus at 7 mph. It currently can't accommodate wheelchairs. Future versions could be larger vehicles.

Today, a safety engineer sits in the navigator’s seat with his hand on a throttle in case he needs to take control. There’s also a bright orange emergency stop button that passengers can hit. In the three weeks the shuttle has been running, the engineer has had to take over only twice, both times because the car started to veer toward grass due to a software bug.

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SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

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