A fourth self-driv­ing toaster seen in an­other city, this time in Europe.

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN

NOT con­tent with hav­ing the fastest stu­dents on Earth, (see page 8), Switzer­land an­nounced it will also start test­ing au­ton­o­mous buses.

This brings to four the num­ber of toaster-shaped ro­bot trans­porters be­ing tested around the world, with the 3D printed Olli from Lo­cal Mo­tors in Wash­ing­ton DC, (which we re­ported on last week), tak­ing the most novel ap­proach.

Then there is the sealed-in EZ10 in Cal­i­for­nia and the open­topped Navia mak­ing the most of the breeze in hu­mid Sin­ga­pore.

Made in your town

The lat­est ro­bot bus is called the Englanf and can carry about 11 pas­sen­gers in com­fort. The buses will not only make traf­fic bet­ter, but bring the Wheels pre­dic­tion of lo­cally-made trans­port a step closer.

Lo­cal Mo­tors CEO John Rogers re­cently told Agence FrancePresse the tech­nol­ogy for these buses is ready and the likes of Olli can start driv­ing it­self on pub­lic roads as soon as lo­cal laws al­low it.

Rogers said Lo­cal Mo­tors en­vis­ages hun­dreds of mi­cro-fac­to­ries where Ol­lis are 3D-printed around the world to fit lo­cal needs.

The Swiss bus is as­sem­bled us­ing more con­ven­tional nuts and bolts, and ini­tially only two buses will steer them­selves through the town.

This pilot project, which is part of the Mo­bil­ity Lab Sion Valais ini­tia­tive, is an op­por­tu­nity for EPFL re­searchers to test and im­prove their traf­fic and fleet­man­age­ment al­go­rithms.

The smart ve­hi­cles will be run by PostBus, Switzer­land’s lead­ing pub­lic bus op­er­a­tor.

They will carry up to 11 pas­sen­gers at a time, at a max­i­mum speed of 20 kilo­me­tres per hour.

Re­mote mon­i­tor­ing

Like the gi­ant au­ton­o­mous trucks that have been oper­at­ing for years in Rio Tinto’s mines in Aus­tralia, a re­mote op­er­a­tor mon­i­tors and con­trols the ve­hi­cle us­ing a soft­ware pro­gram devel­oped by the EPFL startup BestMile.

All the pilot Englanf trips will be for ma­hala.

The Swiss Fed­eral Roads Of­fice and the Valais Roads Ser­vice care­fully an­a­lysed both tech­ni­cal and le­gal con­sid­er­a­tions be­fore green-light­ing the tests. But the elec­tric ve­hi­cles had to be brought up to spec first. This in­cluded in­stalling air con­di­tion­ing, a sec­ond bat­tery, an ac­cess ramp for peo­ple with re­duced mo­bil­ity and a wind­shield wiper for the front win­dow.

The re­searchers from EPFL’s Ur­ban Trans­port Sys­tems Lab­o­ra­tory said in a state­ment their chal­lenge was to de­velop a fleet­man­age­ment sys­tem that could han­dle the many sit­u­a­tions that au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles could en­counter.

The ve­hi­cles must also be able to com­mu­ni­cate with each other and with oth­ers on the road so that they can ad­just their speed as nec­es­sary and re­spect the right-of-way.

The two-year project is sup­ported by the Com­mis­sion for Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion (CTI). It will in­clude a re­li­able sys­tem for managing the spe­cific needs of pas­sen­gers, such as onde­mand ser­vice, book­ing a ride in ad­vance and of­fer­ing flex­i­ble routes. The al­go­rithms will have to be able to man­age these tasks in real time, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing safety or cost ef­fi­ciency. Once ready, the al­go­rithms will be in­cor­po­rated in the cen­tral fleet­man­age­ment sys­tem.

PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

Fu­ture city traf­fic will be made safer and less con­gested by au­ton­o­mous buses like the Englanf Swiss bus (top left), the Navia in Sin­ga­pore (bot­tom left); the Olli that talks back in the U.S (top right) and the EZ10 in Cal­i­for­nia.

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