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Riding Into the Future

USF students test driverless shuttle buses on campus

An autonomous shuttle is being tested at the University of South Florida campus in a first-of-its-kind research trial run by USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR).

Throughout the week of Feb. 11-15, USF students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to hop onto a self-driving shuttle bus and experience what it’s like to ride in a vehicle without a steering wheel. The demonstration is taking place at the walkway between the Library and REC Center.

“It was really cool,” said Natasha Ram, cell and molecular biology student. “It was interesting to see how it avoided walking people.”

Participants in the week-long demonstrations will learn how multiple driverless vehicles interact with each other and will also be asked to share their feelings about having new modes of campus transportation.

The study is part of a vision to integrate new modes of transportation while also lowering CO2 emissions. As more driverless vehicles enter the market, user experience and acceptance is a key factor for the future of autonomous transportation.

"This demo is an important part of CUTR's desire to use our campus environment as a testbed for future multimodal, sustainable transportation technology, including connected and automated vehicles,” said Robert Bertini, PhD, CUTR’s director.

The on-campus demonstration is a collaborative project with Coast Autonomous, a company specializing in autonomous vehicles for low-speed environments such as campuses and airports.

The shuttle bus operates on a network of predefined routes and is designed to operate in mixed traffic areas with pedestrians and vehicles up to 25 mph. Last week the research team visited to site to create a map of the walkway, which is used by the autonomous system to match its path as much as 25 times per second.

“It is fantastic to be working with CUTR to show the world a first glimpse at the future of multi-modal urban transportation. In this case we have a shuttle, but it could be a pod, train and golf cart working together seamlessly,” said Pierre Lefevre, inventor of the first low-speed autonomous shuttle at COAST Autonomous.

Currently there are no plans for USF to implement driverless vehicles on a permanent basis, but the university could consider the technology in the future.

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