Michigan State University introduced an electric autonomous bus that will serve students, staff and faculty beginning early 2022 as part of the campus’ smart mobility ecosystem. The bus represents one of the largest electric autonomous transit vehicles to be deployed on US roadways to date.
Through its collaboration with the state of Michigan, bus manufacturer Karsan and ADASTEC, a San-Francisco-based company delivering advanced automated transportation platforms for full size commercial vehicles, MSU will officially deploy the bus after completing on-campus testing and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) validation of the bus, route and infrastructure.
During testing, the bus will be traveling at 15 mph; this will increase to 25 mph once fully deployed in 2022.
The new Karsan Autonomous e-ATAK bus will complement MSU Mobility’s efforts to test, validate and research all areas of mobility via its connected ecosystem, featuring 8.1 square miles of contiguous urban, suburban, industrial and rural zones. Data that MSU plans to collect and analyze from the bus includes V2I (vehicle to infrastructure) communication technologies as well as experiential learning from persons with disabilities to inform future design considerations.
The bus has 22 seats, with students, staff and faculty being able to board and depart the bus at two stations. The bus’s 2.5-mile route will run non-stop, roundtrip from the MSU Auditorium to the MSU Commuter Lot (#89) at the intersection of Farm Lane and Mt. Hope, which houses the largest solar carport array in North America.
To make this non-stop route possible, all traffic lights along the route will be controlled through intelligent roadside units and will actively communicate with the bus to improve its safety. To ensure optimal safety, a driver from ADASTEC’s Detroit office will be present onboard at all times, prepared to take control if needed.
The bus, offering Level 4 autonomy—meaning it can operate without any human interaction—was developed and produced by Karsan, a bus manufacturer, and updated with ADASTEC’s advanced autonomous technologies.
Designed for large-scale public transport and integrated with a breadth of cutting-edge sensor, safety and mapping equipment, the ADASTEC Open Automated Bus Platform, named flowride.ai, offers bus manufacturers opportunities to best meet the needs of next-generation automated public transportation. Additionally, the cloud-based platform supports data sharing, mission control and fleet management operations.
Students, faculty and the general public will be able to ride the bus beginning spring semester 2022, which begins in January, after rigorous testing and validation is complete.
A $100,000-grant through the Michigan Office of Mobility and Electrification, which was awarded to ADASTEC, helped make this collaboration possible. The bus was initially slated to arrive on campus at the beginning of the year, but was delayed due to the pandemic.