Michigan State University officially has deployed its full-size autonomous electric bus (earlier post) and is accepting passengers on the 2.5-mile campus route. The autonomous bus is one of the largest of its kind to be deployed on US roadways to date.
First introduced in November 2021 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the bus has now completed extensive on-campus testin—including more than 650 test runs of its route spanning all hours of the day—to make the official deployment possible. As part of the process to greenlight accepting passengers, validation of the bus, route and infrastructure was granted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This new mode of transportation for students, faculty, staff and visitors was made possible through a collaboration with the state of Michigan, bus manufacturer Karsan and Michigan-based ADASTEC, which focuses on delivering SAE Level-4 Automated Driving Software Platforms for commercial vehicles.
The 27-foot, 22-seat Karsan Autonomous e-ATAK bus will begin its journey each weekday morning at 9 a.m. from the MSU Commuter Lot (#89) at the intersection of Farm Lane and Mt. Hope Road. The bus’s 2.5-mile route will run nonstop, roundtrip approximately every 45 minutes from the Commuter Lot Bus Stop (#4) to the MSU Auditorium. The bus runs Monday through Thursday, 9:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and Fridays from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., with the last departures from Lot 89 of the day at 1:30 p.m. and noon respectively.
Traffic lights along the route are outfitted with intelligent roadside units and communicate with the bus to enable vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) interoperability. As an added safety measure, a licensed bus driver as a safety driver and operator from ADASTEC’s Ann Arbor office will be onboard at all times, prepared to take control instantly if needed.
Autonomous e-ATAK, offering Level 4 autonomy, 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 that also supports data sharing, mission control and fleet management operations. The bus is also outfitted with a wheelchair ramp along with audio messaging for accessibility.
Data that MSU will 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.