Autonomous Shuttle

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Transportation Services are using a Navya autonomous shuttle to demonstrate the future of self-driving vehicles.

The autonomous shuttle demonstration started on Sept. 9 and will continue through Nov. 15, offering free rides on campus. Running Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the electric self-driving car’s route stops are in front of the Corps of Cadets Quad and the Southside Parking Garage. The route is shaped like a square, going through Lubbock, Bizzell, Lewis and Coke streets.

The shuttle can hold 11 passengers, and a safety operator is present at all times during the shuttle’s operation. Following the route, the shuttle usually completes a whole rotation in 11 to 12 minutes.

The shuttle is classified as a Level 3 autonomous vehicle, which means it runs as a “feet-off, hands-off” system, said TTI senior research senior scientist Robert E. Brydia.

“How it’s actually operating is that a route is mapped, and so every point on the path is identified on the GPS,” Brydia said. “I call it a bread crumb trail, and it follows that bread crumb trail repeatedly.”

The shuttle uses Light Detecting and Ranging (LIDAR) sensors, cameras, real-time kinematic (RTK) GPS and other systems that help it with guidance and detection.

Finance senior Ramon Estrada is a safety operator for the shuttle during the duration of the demonstration. He said the permit that the National Highway and Safety Administration granted for the demonstration has a rule stating that the shuttle must have an operator in the vehicle at all times while its running.

“They have to have some way to control it, so they put this controller into the shuttle so that if something happens, I can take control of it,” Estrada said.

The shuttle recognizes obstacles throughout the route, Estrada said, such as crosswalks and stop signs. The vehicle will wait for pedestrians and stop if it senses an object in its lane.

The Campus Technology Demonstration Initiative funds the project, and Brydia said A&M President Michael K. Young fully supported the demonstration.

“Through his leadership, this is how we have the capability to do this type of demonstration on campus,” Brydia said.

Child professional services sophomore Allison Edwards said that she heard about the shuttle demonstration through her organization, Future Aggie Mentors, and wanted to try it out.

“It’s just something new, like completely new,” Edwards said. “This is my first time ever being on a self-driving vehicle.”

Part of the motivation behind the autonomous shuttle demonstration is to make the campus community aware of this type of mobility option, Brydia said.

“[It’s also] for us to gain some operational experience and to see what it would actually take to run one or more of these things on multiple routes, multiple days per week,” Brydia said.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute encourages everyone to try out the shuttle while it’s available. More information can be found at https://smartcampus.tti.tamu.edu/autonomous-shuttle-demonstration/.

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