Weekly Meeting - January 23: Driverless Shuttles On North Campus Point the Way to the Future

Speaker: Huei Peng is Director of Mcity, the University of Michigan’s public-private partnership devoted to advancing the development of connected and automated vehicles. The Roger L. McCarthy Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University,  earned his Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering in 1992 rom the University of California, Berkeley. He received a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1988 and graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from National Taiwan University in 1984. His research interests include vehicle dynamics and control; electromechanical systems; optimal control; human driver modeling; vehicle active safety systems; control of hybrid and fuel cell vehicles; and energy system design and control for mobile robots.

A year or so ago, Bob Lutz, retired Vice-Chairman for Product Development at GM from 2001 to 2010, prophesized to us that self-driving autonomous vehicles would become the sole means of automotive transportaton within 10 years. A major step toward that day is now underway: the Mcity Driverless Shuttle launched June 5 on North Campus. It utilizes two fully automated, 11-passenger, all-electric AUTONOM Shuttles manufactured by the French firm NAVYA to cover a roughly one-mile round-trip route around the North Campus Research Complex. The shuttles run from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday, weather permitting. Shuttle stops are outside the Building 10 entrance on the north side of the North Campus Research Complex, off Plymouth Road and Huron Parkway, and on the south side of the Complex, in the NC91 parking lot, just off Baxter Road. Two shuttles cover the route roughly every 10 minutes. Each shuttle is equipped with lidar, which uses invisible laser beams to build a view of the surrounding environment, and a GPS system for navigation. Interior cameras will record the reactions of riders inside the shuttle. Exterior cameras will capture the reaction and behavior of other road users, including drivers of other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. While the shuttles are driverless, a conductor will be on board them at all times with the ability to take control and stop if necessary for safety reasons. Through this project, Mcity is studying in real time how passengers react to driverless shuttles as a way to gauge consumer acceptance of the technology. Our speaker is the faculty lead on this project. He will discuss its potential for helping to understand user trust over time, as well as how to design safer self-driving vehicles and operate them more efficiently.