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article imageDriver-less shuttle bus tests autonomous technology in Calgary

By Karen Graham     Sep 9, 2018 in Technology
Calgary - Visitors to the Calgary Zoo and the Telus Spark science center won't have to worry about a driver or a ride to go from one attraction to the other this month. An autonomous vehicle billed as “the future of transportation" is here to serve you.
The electric bus is named ELA - which stands for Electric Automation – and Saturday marked its maiden voyage between the Calgary Zoo's LRT station and the Telus Spark science center next door. The driverless shuttle pilot project will run from September 8 through September 30.
The vehicle is also being billed as the first electric autonomous shuttle in Canada able to be used by the public.
The ELA can transport 12 passengers at a time and will operate at a maximum speed of 12 kph (7.5 mph). And not to worry, folks - there is a backup system in case emergency human intervention is needed. “There is an operator on the bus to make sure everything is running smoothly,” Josephine Tsang of Telus Spark explained to CTV News Canada.
ELA runs on two technologies, explains Tsang. "One “is a super fancy version of a GPS and the other is LIDAR, short for Light Detection and Ranging, which is used to detect pedestrians or other obstacles in the vehicle’s path." ELA also utilizes video cameras to create a 3-D map to understand its surrounding environment.
Telus Spark, along with energy giant Atco is sponsoring the project, in addition to a $50,000 grant from the federal government. Dan Finley, the vice-president of business development for Pacific Western Transportation, which is responsible for ELA’s operation, procurement, and safe management said, “The long-term strategy for autonomous vehicles obviously is to be able to operate on mixed-traffic roads, and so this is one step in that direction
“It manages by exception, so it understands what’s normally there and when there’s something that’s not normally there, it looks for that and it identifies whether the trajectory of that item, that vehicle, car, bicycle is going to interact with it or if it’s going to avoid it,” Finley said, reports the Calgary Herald.
Finley also notes that the vehicle has been deployed in 170 different places in 20 countries and there has never been an accident. “The vehicle is extremely safe,” he said. “It’s very similar to a transit unit, it’s very similar to something you can get in, have a seat and enjoy a ride.”
Researchers with the University of Calgary will also be analyzing and studying the movements of pedestrians and vehicles throughout the month. Rob Ferguson, an associate professor in the Department of Geoscience said, “We have installed what’s called a distributed acoustic sensing system along the entire route of the autonomous vehicle and we’ve repurposed an oilfield instrument."
“We can track, with high precision, the location of not only the autonomous vehicle but anything else that’s moving around close to the autonomous vehicle.”
Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Pacific Western Transportation Group of Companies is the largest Canadian privately owned and operated passenger transportation company - separated into four operating divisions.
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