TEC’s self-driving shuttle test: ‘positive feedback’
On August 31, the TEC’s autonomous shuttle ended its six-month test phase in Louvain-la-Neuve as part of the Navajo Project. According to projects officials, this test allowed them to know the limits of the technology and its interaction with changing infrastructure.
Only one incident is reported, with only minor damage and no injuries, as a driver refused to yield priority to the shuttle. However, other road users and their interpretation of the Highway Code are still the major hindrances to the technology.
As the Navajo Project comes to an end, project leader Simon Collet reports that it brought good feedback. For the first time in Wallonia, an autonomous shuttle has driven on the road in real-world conditions.
After six months, the different partners, including the City of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, Wallonia, the Walloon Braband, inBW, UCLouvain, and the Walloon public transport company (TEC), have learned important lessons on self-driving technology and its application.
Making an autonomous shuttle drive on real roads with other road users wasn’t an easy task. The Mobility Alderman to the City of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve notes that collaboration between all players was key. The EasyMile shuttle bases its daily route on a pre-recorded film of its surroundings, but those tend to change rather quickly depending on the weather and the season.
That being said, only one incident was reported during the six months of driving six days a week. On May 15, the shuttle noted that a driver refused to yield at an intersection. It stopped, but the other car didn’t, resulting in a light collision.
This example showcases that the current major hindrance to autonomous shuttles – or even self-driving technology as a whole – is other road users and their interpretation of the Highway Code. For the Alderman, the shuttle is still too slow and sensitive for real-world driving, and it currently better suits a closed environment, such as amusement parks.
The Navajo Project also included a test phase for a chauffeur-driven shuttle service in parallel to the autonomous shuttle test. This on-demand service picks and drops passengers as near as possible to their destination at 60 predetermined points.
Due to the success of the experience, it has been extended for one year until 31 August 2022. ‘TEC à la demande’ also sees its perimeter grow to the center of Ottignies and the Saint-Pierre clinic.