Michigan State University Friday 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 U.S. 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 intense on-campus testing and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration validation of the bus, route and infrastructure.
“The mobility space is a core focus at MSU and we continue to seek out partnerships that accelerate our research and development efforts and enhance the mobility landscape not only on our campus but throughout our beautiful state and the country,” said MSU President Samuel Stanley, Jr., M.D. “This new autonomous bus symbolizes the types of advancements we’ve made at Michigan State to be on the cutting edge of the transportation of tomorrow.”
“We are incredibly pleased to partner with Karsan and ADASTEC to bring another level of mobility to 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. “This will offer our students a firsthand look at the future of mobility and give us the tremendous opportunity to analyze real world autonomous driving data, supporting a host of R&D initiatives on campus.”
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.
“We are excited to expand our reach into Michigan and partner on this pilot project with one of the leading universities in the mobility space to assist in its pursuit of an autonomous, sustainable future,” said Dr. Ali Peker, CEO of ADASTEC. “The MSU campus offers the ideal environment for proving the capabilities of autonomous transportation in a connected, diverse and real-world setting.”
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.
“Having an electric autonomous bus of this scale in our backyard is incredible. It gives us a hands-on tool that can help educate MSU students and staff members as well as the surrounding communities about the importance and applicability of vehicles of this kind in our society,” said Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer. “MSU’s connected campus is an asset to proving out autonomous technology and helping us realize the full potential of this type of public transportation.”
“Having our 27-foot Karsan Autonomous e-ATAK bus on a campus of this size will be a tremendous showcase of its capabilities. Regardless of the outer conditions, Autonomous e-ATAK can intelligently drive its route without human intervention,” said Okan Bas, CEO of Karsan.