Tak­ing new set of wheels for a spin

Grand­mother tries out the Elec­tric Au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle for the first time

StarMetro Edmonton - - EDMONTON - CLAIRE THEOBALD Read the full story at thes­tar.com/ed­mon­ton

Ed­mon­to­ni­ans got their first chance to cruise around in a driver­less ve­hi­cle Tues­day, in­clud­ing a woman whose first ride in a car was dur­ing the Se­cond World War.

“The driver­less car is some­thing re­ally new in de­vel­op­ment. For the last 100 years, they have been de­vel­op­ing what they had al­ready in­vented. They had in­vented wheels that went around a long time ago, and they in­vented ra­dio and brakes,” said Nora Theobald. “But this thing has a mind, and it’s a lit­tle bit fright­en­ing.”

Theobald, 87 — this re­porter’s grand­mother — sat in wide-eyed won­der­ment as she was tax­ied around Blatch­ford Field in the Elec­tric Au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle (ELA), as part of one of the first elec­tric au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle pilot projects in Western Canada.

“It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence of the ad­vance­ment of hu­man abil­ity that will be un­matched for an­other 1,000 years maybe,” said Theobald.

ELA, an EZ10 shut­tle bus man­u­fac­tured by EasyMile, op­er­ates com­pletely au­tonomously

— no driver, no steer­ing wheel and no brake ped­als — rolling along a pre­pro­grammed route at around 12 km/h, nav­i­gat­ing ob­sta­cles us­ing sen­sors, lasers and cam­eras. “Get­ting to ex­pe­ri­ence this cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy is very ex­cit­ing,” said Mayor Don Ive­son, in a press re­lease shared with me­dia af­ter the ELA started tak­ing pas­sen­gers

Tues­day.

While younger gen­er­a­tions may grow up with­out think­ing twice about climb­ing aboard a car with­out a driver, Theobald re­calls the first time she rode in a car, evac­u­at­ing her home in Eng­land dur­ing the Se­cond World War.

“They took us all, pinned our name (on our coats), and did not tell us or our par­ents

where we were go­ing. Piled us into a fu­neral van and took us off to the rail­way sta­tion,” she said.

For her 87th birth­day, the only thing Theobald asked for was a ride in a driver­less car.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. It was re­ally in­cred­i­ble.”

CODIE MCLACH­LAN FOR STARMETRO

Nora Theobald was one of the first to ride the Elec­tric Au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle as part of one of the first pilot stud­ies of the ve­hi­cle in Western Canada.

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