Artificial intelligence scientists seem very close to mastering the field of autonomous vehicles. In most countries however legislation and regulations have not caught up to the technology. In Switzerland researchers are beginning a trail of a new self driving bus called Smart Shuttle. Using an array of sensors and video chips, A.I. software has learned how to protect pedestrians, other drivers and passengers completely without the help of humans.
The reasons for pursuing such technology, beyond the usual reason of ” because we can” , include financial and arguably safety. Computers do not get tired, need food, rest stops or pay raises. It is true there will be jobs in manufacturing these vehicles but non self driving vehicles are already being manufactured so this is probably not new jobs but new products. Also manufacturing itself is being automated with fewer and fewer workers being needed every year.
Smart Shuttle self driving electric buses
The technology is very cool and for sure includes many benefits for society, but sadly jobs is not one of them.Autonomous or self driving vehicles are always electric powered so as long as you are using electricity generated from clean sources such as solar or wind technology, there are not associated emissions or impact to the environment. Along with the A.I. based smart technology comes what is known as connected vehicle technology. Smart Shuttles will likely be connected to each other as well as a remote monitoring system.
Here is a very interesting smart shuttle being testing in Switzerland.
Acting on behalf of Swiss Post, PostBus Switzerland Ltd together with other partners, such as the City of Sion, the Canton Valais and the ETH Lausanne is testing two autonomous vehicles in Sion over two years. The tests are carried out within the scope of the mobility lab (Mobility Lab Sion-Valais)
Special permits are required from the authorities to carry out the pilot test in the City of Sion
The vehicles developed by Navya, a company based in France, run on electricity alone. The two shuttles are transporting up to eleven people at a maximum of 20 km/h through the streets of the capital of the Valais. According to the company there will always be specially trained personnel on board, but the vehicles run fully automatically and do not have a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal. However, there is an emergency button to stop the vehicle if need be.
Thanks to state-of-the-art sensors, the vehicles are guided to the centimetre when moving through the streets, and they recognize any obstacles and signals on the road during the day and at night. A programme created by the Swiss start-up BestMile monitors and controls the two autonomous vehicles.
Test phase with passengers
The 4.80 m long and 2.05 m wide shuttle vehicles will be brought into service in two phases. From December 2015 until spring 2016, specialists tested the vehicles in a cordoned-off private area. Since the approval of the pilot project by the responsible authorities, the autonomous shuttles have been operating in public areas since June 2016 and are transporting people in the pedestrian zone and shared space in Sion’s old town. If the tests in this area are successful, the vehicles may also be introduced on other routes in the city of Sion.
Here is video showing the autonomous smart shuttle bus in use.
Technical Specifications for the Smart Shuttle.
SmartShuttle is a 100 % electric and automated transport vehicle. The two innovative and intelligent driverless shuttles in Sion can transport up to 11 passengers and drive up to 20 km/h. SmartShuttle calls upon state of the art technologies, developed to ensure safety, comfort and performance.
State of the art multi-sensor technology
The NAVYA ARMA is equipped with state of the art sensors capable of communicating between themselves and fusing their data to refine the decision making of the vehicle.
3D perception mapping the environment, allowing a precise positioning and ensure obstacle detection.
Communication between a GPS sensor and a base station in order to determine at any moment the precise position of the vehicle.
Measuring the displacement and the wheels speed in order to estimate the velocity of the vehicle and confirm its position.
Obstacle detection and estimate their position in regards to the vehicle. Analysis of the environment (road signs, traffic lights) and information extraction.
All information provided is based on details from the manufacturer. Technical changes cannot be excluded
Here is another great video of the Smart Shuttle self driving bus technology. I am sure that you will soon see this driving around the streets of other Swiss cities such as Zurich or Geneva.