The driverless minibuses that have been making their way around the EPFL campus since April now show up on demand. Users can use a free app to order up a ride and track the location of the vehicles in real time. This marks a new phase in the development of urban transport.
They already followed a set schedule all over the EPFL campus. The driverless Ligier EZ-10 shuttles, which are being tried out at EPFL as part of the European research project CityMobil2, entered a new test phase last week. Shuttle users can now request a pick-up just as easily as they summon an elevator thanks to the smartphone app BestMile (free on the App store and Google Play).
Remarkably simple, the app uses GPS to find your position and direct you to the closest shuttle stop. With a simple click, you ask the shuttle to meet you there or you inform it of your starting point and destination. Operating in the cloud, BestMile manages the waiting list and optimizes the driverless shuttles’ routes in order to meet users’ needs.
“As far as we know, this is the first time in the world that a fleet of autonomous vehicles can be controlled like this.” said Raphaël Gindrat, the founder of BestMile.
During this pilot phase, which will run until the end of August, two driverless shuttles are available to users from Monday to Friday. To prevent practical jokers from creating confusion, rides can only be ordered by users who are in fact close to a shuttle stop.
Riders from EPFL and casual visitors are welcome to test the system for shuttling between the Esplanade and the M1 metro station, or between the Rolex Learning Center and the Estudiantines residence halls. Usage statistics will be carefully collected and analyzed and then used as the basis for the development of driverless public transport systems serving an entire neighborhood or even a city.
“That’s still far off, but the tests that we are conducting here are very promising.” said Philippe Vollichard, who is in charge of sustainable development at EPFL.
Emmanuel Barraud, Mediacom – EPFL