Federal action halts UW plan to put students in driver-less shut - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Federal action halts UW plan to put students in driver-less shuttle

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MADISON (WKOW) - Action by federal officials halts UW-Madison plans to offer students first-time, demonstration rides in a driver-less vehicle.

Following a recent, minor collision involving an autonomous vehicle in Las Vegas, National Transportation Safety Board officials barred any future, demonstration rides from taking place, as the incident is reviewed.
 

UW-Madison officials planned to offer rides on a driver-less shuttle Wednesday through Saturday on Engineering Drive near Camp Randall Stadium, to include demonstrations prior to Wisconsin's home game with Michigan.

"I certainly don't fault them for wanting to be cautious with this,"  says UW School Engineering program manager Peter Rafferty.

Rafferty still regrets the loss of the opportunity for students and others to get first hand experience with the concept.

"It's really important for people to go for a ride, to see how it feels and get some comfort with the technology,"  Rafferty says.

The autonomous vehicle was brought to campus from Michigan for the planned demonstration rides. 

A representative of the vehicle's Paris-based manufacturer Navya, Julien Liss says the driver-less in shuttle in Las Vegas operated as it should, stopping when sensing a delivery truck was approaching it, with the truck's driver cited in the collision.

Liss says an autonomous vehicle such as the shuttle brought to Madison will be ideal for students to complete their mass transit trips.  "It is designed as a first mile, last mile transportation complement," Liss says.

Rafferty says UW-Madison is one of ten U.S. Department of Transportation-approved proving ground sites for automated vehicles.  He says the initiative's work on campus began in January.
 

"We have groups that are doing really high detail simulation of these types of vehicles, and some of the sensors and those components, and how they interact,"  Rafferty says.  "We have a full-scale driving simulator for human factors-type evaluation."
 

Liss says the shuttle's features include obstacle sensors, computer road mapping, and emergency back-up technology.

Liss says fifty of the company's vehicles are on the road on several, different continents, and believes driver-less vehicles will expand within the transportation mix within a year.

Rafferty says demonstration of the fifteen-passenger, autonomous shuttle - without ride-a-longs - will still take place, with the vehicle at the Wisconsin Avenue section of the Capitol Square Wednesday at 10 a.m.  He says the vehicle will be at Engineering Drive Saturday and Sunday.

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