The University of Michigan's latest self-driving vehicle research project isn't on its enclosed test campus, Mcity.
Launched on Monday, staff and students on the university's north campus can now catch a ride on a driverless shuttle, which will travel about a one-mile route between two traditional bus stops.
Researchers will study how the shuttle interacts with other cars, pedestrians, and obstacles, as well as how people react to riding on the shuttle.
The shuttles will have human "safety conductors" on them, who monitor the shuttle's progress, hit a button at each stop sign to tell the shuttle to keep going, and intervene in an emergency. "I can stop that thing on a dime," says conductor Robert Haas. But much of the time, he says it's the shuttle that decides when to go and when to stop. Pedestrians or bikes darting in front will cause the shuttle to apply the brakes.
"Even squirrels -- and yes, we've tested that," says Haas. U of M staff member Kim Kiernan was one of the first riders on the 11-passenger electric shuttles. "It was great," she said, coming off the shuttle. "I felt very safe. We were moving pretty slowly and actually we had to brake suddenly because another car was coming a little too close to us and so I feel like I got most of the experience." The shuttle will run on University of Michigan campus roads Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (in good weather -- no rain or snow, please.) Mcity hopes to expand the route over time.