Driverless transport arrives in the Netherlands
The first self-driving electric shuttle expected to travel on public roads has been delivered to the Netherlands. It is anticipated that the WEpod will take passengers between Wageningen and Ede in the province of Gelderland.
WEpod is named after the two destinations it is planned to move between (Wageningen and Ede) and for everyone (we) involved in the project. Pod references a small automatic vehicle.
The project is a collaboration between the province of Gelderland and many other organisations, including Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) and TU Delft.
The vehicle which is being used to pilot the project is the EZ-10, a mobility solution from vehicle manufacturer and system robotic specialists EasyMile. It was first developed for Citymobil2, a project looking at automated road transport systems.
The six-person vehicle has a maximum speed of 25 kilometres per hour. The WEpod team intend to equip the vehicle with additional technical equipment such as cameras, radar, laser and GPS to track the environment the vehicle will travel in and interpret it to create a safer ride.
There are several initiatives in the world which use driverless vehicles, such as the ParkShuttle in Rotterdam and the Heathrow Pod in London, but these run on special single trajectory lanes.
WEpod is the first of its kind in the Netherlands to run on public roads, but it will not travel in challenging conditions at this stage, such as during rush hour, at night or in bad weather.
A control room will monitor the vehicle and safety of its passengers. The vehicles will initially ride on a fixed route, but it is expected to expand to more routes and other regions in the Netherlands.
Officials from the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment will determine whether or not the WEpod will be allowed on public roads.
A spokesperson for the project team, which is led by TU Delft, told Dutch newspaper de Gelderlander, that if all else fails, they are considering installing a joystick.
Reserving your seat
It is envisioned that users will be able to use a smartphone App that will allow them to reserve a seat on the WEpod. The App also presents an opportunity for the control room to receive data from the vehicle.
Beginning the pilot
Two EZ-10 vehicles have been delivered to the Netherlands. It is reported that in November 2015 the test phase will be launched, where the vehicle will travel on a designated route between Wageningen campus and Ede-Wageningen railway station. Demonstrations will take place from May to July 2016, with plans to continue the initiative after its test phase.