Have you ever made your way onto a bus, and spent half an hour finding your change, and then a further half an hour while the driver takes his time getting your ticket, and being overly precise with counting your change? Annoying isn’t it? Well, the Dutch have you covered! This could be one of the handiest transport technologies to have come about in the last decade.
The Driverless Shuttle
The first ever driverless electric shuttle drove a few hundred meters with its first set of passengers this week. In order to make sure that there were no serious accidents or casualties while being tested, the first trip was taken down a rural part of the Netherlands. Luckily for the passengers, it was a smooth ride indeed.
The self-driving shuttle, named Wepod, aims to have a complete robotic fleet of vehicles to make their journeys onto public roads to make their way through traffic for extended periods of time later this year. Quite similar Ultra Pods have been tried and tested at Heathrow Airport on closed routes for a rather long time to perfect their technology, and these will soon be making their way onto the streets of London this year. This seems to be the kind of transport technology that is soon going to be in cities around the world!
Wageningen University are looking after the Wepod for the time being and are extensively testing the shuttle in hope that the Province of Gelderland will expand the route to not only other stops but other countries completely.
Not Exactly Nippy
Don’t expect to see these driverless shuttles to be speeding you to your destination, however. Unfortunately, the maximum speed is 25mph so these shuttles aren’t going to be zooming around. During the test, the speed was kept at half that rate for the passengers safety. Just like any other public mode of transport, the shuttle is complete with an automatic door, wheelchair lift (although it only has room for six people), and scariest of all? No steering wheel for manual operation.
So how on earth does this shuttle work? Well, the Wepod travels by a mixture of route maps to the highest detail, radars and cameras that track it’s every move. The computers on the shuttle itself, respond to the laser tracking when there is a change in the environment such as a passing car, or a sharp turn in the road.
It’s not all quiet though, some passengers will be given the ability to speak to the control room, so that any worries, questions or queries can be communicated with those keeping an eye on the shuttle from afar.
With such a promising idea, and a shuttle that is literally driving itself, people cannot wait for the test phase to be over which could be as soon as summer 2016. No more annoying bus journeys, nothing but technologically advanced travelling for me from now on! All aboard the driverless shuttle!