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.