Canada pulls out all the stops for driverless shuttle

Published: Sep. 5, 2018 at 5:48 AM CDT
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A Canadian city is introducing a driverless shuttle. It's a pilot project that uses an electric mini-bus to carry passengers on a short ride to the city zoo.

It's a first for Canada. ELA, the Electronic Autonomous Shuttle, hopes to be a driving force for the future of public transportation.

"This is really helping us explore what the future could look like. So, how does the city change when it has autonomous vehicles," said Andrew Sedor, with the City of Calgary.

The project is a collaboration involving the brains and money from Academia, industry, and all three levels of government. The plan is to shuttle up to 12 passengers on a three and a half minute ride from the Telus Park Science Center to the Calgary Zoo and back.

How does it work? The tiny board receives signals from about 20 satellites orbiting Earth to navigate its path. Sort of like your car's GPS, but with a lot more accuracy.

"We use our high precision technology that navigates to about two centimeters precision to keep the vehicle on its track," explained Jonathan Auld, from Hexagon Positioning Intelligence.

ELA is equipped with LIDAR. Pulses of laser light detect objects or people in its path and if they come too close, the shuttle stops automatically. While there's no need for a driver, there will be an operator on board to help passengers feel at ease with the unfamiliar.

"I think it's something new, with all new technologies people tend to be a little bit critical. And then also I think there's an element of losing control. So people like to be behind the wheel, and in this, you're letting something else take over," added Sedor.

Dan Finely with Pacific Western said, "We want to make sure the vehicle is operating in a safe condition and we have an operator on there to take care of the passenger safety."

While this is a month-long pilot project only, it may be extended if it proves popular. Edmonton will launch its own ELA shuttle this fall and pilot projects are in the works for British Columbia and Ontario.

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