Coming Soon to Ann Arbor: Driverless Bus Shuttles on Campus


Connecting state and local government leaders

The University of Michigan believes it’s the first to deploy AVs on a college campus.

After months of development and testing, two driverless bus shuttles will soon go into passenger service on a prescribed route on the University of Michigan’s North Campus in Ann Arbor.

The 15-seat electric shuttles, manufactured by French firm NAVYA, will have safety conductors and can be used by anyone with a university bus pass. Each shuttle is equipped with GPS and a system known as lidar, which uses invisible lasers to build a view of the surrounding environment for navigation.

The Autonom shuttles will also feature on-board cameras and Wi-Fi communications to record data during operation.

The safety conductor will answer questions from passengers and can take over the shuttle if needed. Each vehicle is equipped with pedestrian safety systems that cause it to stop immediately if someone steps in its path.

The shuttles will run all year, though extreme weather can hinder the lidar system. In those cases, the vehicle will stop and alert the safety conductor to take over via joystick, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Mcity, a public-private partnership based at the university that researches autonomous vehicles, will operate the shuttles. In the coming weeks, the vehicles are expected to begin traveling their non-stop, 2-mile route, which connects the Lurie Engineering Building and the North Campus Research Complex.

Route Fifty checked out the route last year:

The course runs over lightly trafficked North Campus roads that are smooth, turn gently, and are free of unexpected hazards. Speaking casually with students, they were quite aware of the coming launch of the microbus and said they’d be eager to take it for a ride.

The university believes it’s the first campus to deploy the technology, but there are other autonomous vehicle projects in progress in Michigan, with Ann Arbor and Detroit becoming hubs for AV research.

Last fall, MayMobility, a local startup company began trials of a fixed-route AV microbus shuttle service for employees of commercial real-estate firm Bedrock Detroit. The American Center for Mobility, which is based at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township and includes a 2.5-mile highway loop to test AVs, officially opened earlier this month.

PREVIOUSLY on Route Fifty:

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: Pittsburgh Airport Partnership Will Create Testing Ground for New Technology