Driverless shuttle seen as leading way
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.