SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) — At Santa Clara University, walking to class is so, like, basic.

Monday is the first day the public gets to ride Auro, an autonomous self-driving campus shuttle, the only one of its kind in the country.

The shuttle is equipped with LIDAR sensors that give the computer a 360 degree view, and tracks objects 100 yards away.

Walk in front of it, and the system knows a human is trying to cross the road.

What makes Auro different, is that they’ve captured a 3D map of the route.

So, in a sense, the shuttle is driving around in its own virtual world.

The system is programmed to almost always yield the right of way, be non-threatening, and make pedestrians feel welcome.

“So, it feels like a human driving it. Like a nice, courteous human driving it,” Auro CTO Jit Ray Chowdhury said.

“When I saw something come out in front of it, it just comes to a complete stop and waits for that obstacle to clear. So, when I saw that happen, I was like OK, these guys know what they’re doing,” student Tim O’Keefe said.

However, teaching it to be assertive, like in a crowd of people, is a complex problem.

When things get hairy, the operator takes over manual control using a joystick.

Eventually, the computer will learn what to do and how to react on its own.

Auro hopes to equip other college campuses and large companies with a fleet of on-demand shuttles.

Take a ride. Come take a ride and you won’t fear it anymore,” Auro co-founder and CEO Nalin Gupta said.

Comments (2)
  1. Don Anderson says:

    Now this is interesting, so the car will be analyzing how and when the operator takes control, and what they do, and learn to mimic this behavior?

    But I doubt that the computer can really do this. Surely the operator, driving through a dense crowd, makes eye contact and reads people’s body language to decide when they can drive forward. How can the computer do this?

  2. I think that shuttles are an awesome idea. Something that I love is that they are starting to be a thing at football games. It’s so smart because parking is crazy and then you don’t have to worry if you’ve had too much to drink.