IoT Innovation Drives Autonomous Shuttle Use

Self-driving shuttles bring environmentally friendly transportation options to smart cities. Loaded with artificial intelligence and IoT technologies, these vehicles are primed to change metro transit.

 

Article Key

Image credit: EasyMile

The case for electric vehicles is strong. With zero tailpipe emissions, EVs are better for the environment. The US Environmental Protection Agency claims that greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of an electric vehicle are lower than those from gasoline-powered vehicles, even when factoring in manufacturing, charging, and driving an EV.

City buses, while better than cars, still are big contributors to greenhouse gasses. To curb their carbon footprint, cities across the globe are starting to roll out electric vehicles as part of their public transportation programs. In many cases, these electric vehicles are also driverless, relying on Internet of Things technologies to navigate.

Tricked Out with IoT

One example comes from EasyMile and 7StarLake. The companies developed the EZ10 autonomous shuttle, which is operational in 200 locations in 30 countries worldwide, including 16 US locations. The 12-passenger vehicles include a built-in automated wheelchair ramp. They top out at 15 miles per hour and can operate in rain, snow, and fog in mixed driving environments.

The 13-foot unmanned vehicle uses a combination of radar, LiDAR, GPS, odometry, and artificial intelligence technologies to drive on predetermined routes. The shuttles are equipped with AI-enabled cameras that provide a 360-degree view around the bus. Computer vision spots signage and detects objects in front of or around the vehicle; any anomaly can stop the vehicle from progressing. Built-in 2D and 3D cameras—both in the shuttles and at the shuttle stops—help determine whether passengers are waiting to board.

Computer vision sees multiple passengers wanting to board shuttle

Image credit: 7StarLake

Core Computing

The heart of the EZ10 shuttle, also called the Relay, is 7StarLake’s CPT320 computers. The devices, powered by Intel® Core™ processors, handle image and data processing for all aspects of autonomous driving. They analyze sensor data to determine positioning, navigation, energy, and speed and communicate with a central transportation hub. 7StarLake’s SR10A computer, powered by Intel® Core™ processors, supports in-shuttle entertainment.

Using artificial intelligence and computer vision, the system identifies driving routes, determines when to accelerate or decelerate, and monitors safety systems. Integrated sensors allow the EZ10 to avoid obstacles.

Real-time data processing enables the driverless shuttle to interact with other vehicles, passing or giving way when necessary. AI and IoT technologies support vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, so municipalities can build smart corridors and offer mobility-as-a-service to their residents.

Fleet Management

Each of the EZ10 driverless shuttles is equipped with EZFleet, EasyMile’s fleet management system, which relays information to a supervision center. The software monitors the location of each vehicle, assigned routes and destinations, and expected time of arrival, all in real time. It can make traffic-based transit adjustments on the fly.

EZFleet also enables on-demand riding. Riders request service through an app, developed in conjunction with the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. EZFleet determines the shuttle and the route best suited to pick up a rider. The management software also can change routes to collect additional riders or dispatch another vehicle if ridership increases, while maintaining service levels.

EasyMile’s software operates independently of the vehicle, making it possible for other OEMs to integrate into their autonomous vehicles. That’s promising news, as the market for driverless vehicles is expected to reach $4 billion by 2028.

Not only are self-driving shuttles more environmentally friendly, but they often are safer. Autonomous vehicles aren’t distracted by noise or smart phones, they don’t text and drive, and they don’t get tired. Smart cities of the future will include autonomous shuttles, making public transportation cleaner, greener, and safer.

 

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