Driverless shuttle hits the streets of Madison - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Driverless shuttle hits the streets of Madison


MADISON (WKOW) -- The UW campus made history Tuesday by launching the first ever driverless car on public roads. The UW Engineering Department, along with the French company Navya, tested out their driverless car in hopes of easing concerns over the technology.

Just last month, a self-driving Uber hit and killed a woman crossing the road in Tempe, Arizona. Accidents like these have some concerned about how trustworthy the technology really is. UW engineers and researchers assured this test run was safe and had an operator nearby if something happened.

The driverless car hit the streets of Madison and took passengers for a shuttle ride up Observatory Drive on campus. The university is leading the industry being the first to get approval for these federally designated autonomous vehicles on roadways.

"With this, it's a highly automated vehicle that doesn't have any pedals or a steering wheel. It really is driverless,” said Peter Rafferty, researcher with UW College of Engineering. “That means it’s going to respond better to anything that's getting in it's way."

The vehicle is manned by an operator because current law doesn't allow them to drive without one. As time evolves experts said one day these will just be filled with passengers.

"Similar to a pilot on an airplane, the automated system is doing about 99 percent of the flying on the airplane, but it puts our minds at ease that there's a human upfront just in case," said Aaron Foster operator and employee at Navya.

Researchers said this technology would be a perfect fit for college campuses, even with heavy foot traffic.

"It's a dynamic environment because we have cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians. It’s not super busy where it's stretching the limitation of the vehicle," said Foster.

The goal is to conduct a trial and and put people's minds at ease. Passengers said it turned their views around once they hopped on board.

"I think after being in the vehicle I have less concerns,” said Sara Giacalone of Madison, "seeing how it interacts with people and other things around it and seeing the vehicle would stop if something was in front of it."

If you missed the opportunity to take a ride today the shuttle will be around again Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the west side of Russell Laboratories, 1630 Linden Drive.

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