Driver­less shut­tle seen as lead­ing way

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - BILL KAUFMANN BKauf­[email protected]­media.com

Driver­less buses and other city ve­hi­cles will fol­low in the trail­blaz­ing path of an au­tonomous shut­tle soon to run be­tween the Cal­gary Zoo and Telus Spark, a city coun­cil­lor said Thurs­day.

The 12-pas­sen­ger Elec­tronic Au­tonomous shut­tle, or ELA, will be­gin mak­ing trips for the pub­lic on the ser­vice road­way be­tween the two at­trac­tions on Sept. 8 as a pilot project. It will travel at a speed of 12 km/ h.

It’s a har­bin­ger of an era when such ve­hi­cles will be com­mon­place among pri­vate and city-op­er­ated sce­nar­ios, said Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keat­ing.

“It’s the first ac­tual ini­tia­tive of that,” he said. “Au­tonomous ve­hi­cles are com­ing; how broad-based is an­other ques­tion, so let’s find out how we do it the best we can.”

Ot­tawa pro­vided $50,000 for the pilot project, which runs un­til Sept. 30 There’s a $20,000 cost to the city, which is co-or­di­nat­ing the test and pro­gram­ming the ve­hi­cle.

The ELA — op­er­ated by Pa­cific Western Trans­porta­tion — will have a lim­ited ex­po­sure to other ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic on its rounds, mak­ing it a safe test, said Keat­ing.

It’ll also be a con­ve­nient, nocharge shut­tle, he said, that’ll fill the trans­porta­tion gap be­tween the Zoo LRT sta­tion and Telus Spark.

But the longer view is lay­ing the groundwork for wider use of driver­less trans­port, said Keat­ing.

“Whether it’s us­ing ded­i­cated lanes or GPS guid­ance, it’s com­ing,” he said.

But Keat­ing couldn’t say when those other ap­pli­ca­tions to the city fleet would hap­pen, only that it “won’t be any time soon,” due to safety wrin­kles yet to be worked out.

Keat­ing didn’t deny the tech­nol­ogy could have an im­pact on labour de­mand.

“It’s the re­al­ity of the world we live in; we have to find ways to em­brace it,” he said.

With its dis­tinct sea­sons and di­verse land­scape, Cal­gary and its en­vi­rons are con­sid­ered prime ter­ri­tory for test­ing au­tonomous ve­hi­cles, said Keat­ing.

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