Michigan State University officially deployed a full-size autonomous EV bus this week. A 27-foot, 22-seat Karsan Autonomous e-ATAK bus is taking passengers on the 2.5-mile campus route. The autonomous bus is one of the largest of its kind to be deployed on U.S. roadways to date. The bus has 22 seats, with students, staff and faculty being able to board and depart the bus at two stations. The bus also has a wheelchair ramp and audio messaging for accessibility.
The Spartan bus completed on-campus testing, which did not include written college admission tests. More than 650 test runs of its route during all hours of the day helped make the official deployment possible. As part of the process to accept passengers, validation of the bus, route and infrastructure was granted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It appears to be the first and only SAE Level-4 automated bus that has NHTSA approval.
The bus’s route will run non-stop, round-trip 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 are controlled through “intelligent” (smarter than U of M students? They only speak football in 100-yard increments there. – editor) roadside units that will actively communicate with the bus to improve its safety.
The bus has Level 4 autonomy in SAE-speak (SAE Autonomous Driving Levels). This means it can operate without any human interaction. It was developed and produced by Karsan, a bus manufacturer, and updated with ADASTEC’s advanced autonomous technologies. Autonomous e-ATAK was developed and produced for autonomous use by bus manufacturer Karsan, and updated with ADASTEC’s software platform, named flowride.ai. The platform incorporates a range of sensor, safety and mapping equipment on the bus. It also supports data sharing, mission control and fleet management operations.
“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 offers bus manufacturers opportunities to best meet the needs of next-generation automated public transportation,” according to the maker.
“This is a historic milestone in our mobility efforts, and we are thrilled to have our electric autonomous bus accept riders on campus,” said Satish Udpa, Interim Director of MSU Mobility and University Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Member of the State of Michigan’s Council on Future Mobility and Electrification.
“We couldn’t have brought this project to fruition without the help of Karsan, which provided the bus and technical assistance; ADASTEC, which provides the autonomous technology, testing and extensive technical support; and the state of Michigan, which awarded ADASTEC a $100,000 grant through the Michigan Office of Mobility and Electrification,” Udpa concluded.