At APTA’s 2017 convention in Atlanta I had the opportunity to take a ride in the Keolis Navya autonomous shuttle bus. What is this contraption you may ask? It is a 100% self driving fully autonomous shuttle bus created by a French startup developed with partnerships with Keolis and RAC (both French transportation conglomerates). This mini shuttle seats 10 people, plus additional room for standees.
The ride is smooth as this is an all electric vehicle. There are sensors built all around the bus to detect obstructions i.e. trees or people. If the bus senses an object is ahead it will apply the brakes automatically. Routes and stops are programmed into the onboard computer, from there the shuttle will do a circular route following the guidance and coordinates that are provided. Overall, the ride was alright, and for me uneventful. The shuttle in my opinion, looks a bit like a bubbly clown car. This I think designs is something autonomous vehicles need to overcome. They need be designed to look more attractive and not have sensors/lasers protruding from the roof and not look goofy. I guess its still a work in progress. Other than that, the self driving autonomous shuttle bus did provide a smooth ride and did exactly what it was designed to do.
Currently, several of these self driving shuttles are being used at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor as well as other locations around the world. On a college campus a mini bus autonomous vehicle is the perfect environment. It helps take students to their dorms or academic halls by dropping them off right at the door steps. The Navya will not replace a transit bus, but it will help supplement it by adding a finishing route inside a campus where narrow pathways don’t allow automotive traffic.