University of Alberta evaluating how driverless shuttle performs in cold climate



The University of Alberta’s Centre for Smart Transportation (CST) is testing a driverless electric shuttle on campus to evaluate how it performs in a cold climate.

Known as ELA, the electric autonomous vehicle operates without a driver, is capable of carrying 12 passengers, and drives at speeds up to 12 kilometers (approximately 7.5 miles) per hour.

Designed to operate on existing city infrastructure, the shuttle is currently operating on the University of Alberta South Campus, giving Edmonton residents the opportunity to participate in the tests. The area where the vehicle is operating has been fitted with special signs for the shuttle to “read,” as well as digital signaling equipment that allow the vehicle to understand its environment.

“We have the capacity here at the Centre for Smart Transportation to redefine the infrastructure standards for automated and connected vehicle transportation, thinking about the requirements we can supply for large-scale deployment in a secure and certified environment,” explains University of Alberta engineer Tony Qiu, director of the Centre for Smart Transportation, who is working with the city of Edmonton to test the technology.

ELA is part of a larger vision for “safe, efficient and sustainable Transportation Systems within Edmonton and across the province of Alberta,” the University of Alberta notes.

To make this vision a reality, the current tests will not only evaluate how the shuttle performs in a cold weather climate, but they will also look into how Smart infrastructure (roadside technology) can enhance the performance of the shuttle, and seek to understand how the automated shuttle will be operated in a secured and reliable environment.

This is not the first time that the ELA shuttle has been tested; in fact, since October, it has been utilized in tests by the city at two other sites.

Additionally, a similar project took place in Calgary earlier this year and focused on providing short-distance shuttle service.

Data from the pilots will be jointly assembled by the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary to evaluate the technology in colder climates, public feedback and readiness, and to plan for future uses.

“We’re bringing together research on smart vehicles and smart infrastructure and on making them compatible, especially in cold climate conditions like those here in the city,” Qiu says.