VT Transportation Institute tests self-driving shuttle

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech is preparing for the future of self-driving vehicles by taking one out for a test drive.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has employed a shuttle that makes a self-guided loop from its front door to the beginning of the Virginia Smart Road. The shuttle is guided by both sensors and GPS and drives at a speed of 12 miles per hour.

"We always look for these types of technologies in ways we can apply them and make transportation better," said Andrew Alden of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. "I try to imagine my mother getting off a bus and getting onto this thing, qnd whether she would get onto an empty vehicle and push this button."

Blacksburg has become a hot spot for self-driving technology. Virginia Tech has established an automation hub for engineering students to learn about the mechanics of self-driving, while Blacksburg-based Torc Robotics was recently purchased by Daimler in a bid to eventually develop self-driving trucks.

Alden sees the shuttle the Transportation Institute is testing as a perfect fit on Virginia Tech's campus or to help mobility-challenged people get home from a transit stop.

"The primary navigation and the mechanics of the vehicle, that's all there," Alden said. "What we're looking at now is crash risks. We can maybe start moving people around that may have trouble moving around."

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