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Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has deployed an autonomous shuttle at its 1,500-acre campus in San Antonio. The shuttle can carry up to 14 passengers for campus tours, while also gathering important information to help researchers better understand autonomous driving.
SwRI is a developer of software systems for autonomous vehicles and robotics. Its Ranger system is at work on the shuttle, helping it to autonomously drive unique routes on the campus. The Ranger system is a localization tool that uses a ground-facing camera and automation software to maintain its position with accuracy up to 2 cm.
“It is rewarding for our engineers to take the very best technology that SwRI has developed to serve our clients and then embed it into a showcase vehicle that has a practical purpose in our backyard,” Ryan Lamm, director of SwRI’s Applied Sensing Department, said.
SwRI’s shuttle is classified as a low-speed vehicle, meaning it doesn’t go above 50 mph. This makes it perfect for closed campuses. It uses a campus map with features like intersections, lanes, stop signs and crosswalks highlighted. Routes are selected along the map by an operator.
While the shuttle drives itself, a human driver sits behind the wheel as an additional safety precaution.
The shuttle’s artificial intelligence (AI) is able to classify roadway signs, pedestrians, vehicles and other objects. The shuttle can handle a variety of driving scenarios, including sharing the road with other vehicles, detecting dynamic objects like pedestrians and cyclists and determining the right of way at an intersection.
While much of the shuttle’s functionality can be found in SwRI’s autonomy stack, the shuttle has additional capabilities, like being able to share data with intelligent transportation systems and other connected and automated vehicles.
The shuttle debuted earlier this month to San Antonio-area leaders attending a SwRI event. Attendees had the opportunity to take a 10-minute campus tour on the shuttle.
“This mid-size passenger vehicle presents future opportunities to improve mobility and access to transportation in neighborhoods where large buses cannot travel,” Dan Rossiter, a SwRI engineer who helped organize the event, said. “We are thrilled to be able to say San Antonio not only has this capability at SwRI, but that we are helping to develop and deploy similar systems around the globe.”