ELA Calgary Preview: Electric Autonomous Shuttle
The ELA is an electric autonomous shuttle that's being tested across Canada. It essentially showcases the future of transportation and it was being presented locally in Calgary. This peaked my interest as we don't typically get things like this in the area so I thought I'd inquire into it. With that, a press booking was set and I arrived to test it out. This is a very compact vehicle that has a bus layout allowing multiple individuals to sit down or stand in the open area. This makes sense as multiple passengers can ride at once and that will most likely be an initial integration of driver-less vehicles in the future.
I was able to ride it a few times down a determined path that was a fair stretch of road. I equate it to generally riding a bus, which is the idea of it. It was a fine ride without hiccups and this was further impressive as we were going down a dirty gravel-like road. Not the smoothest of surfaces to drive across and it handled this all well. It was able to maneuver on the correct side of the road, back up and switch direction as well which was interesting. It did this without any help and I didn't notice any difference in comparison to if a driver had been handling the vehicle.
The eventual goal of the tests is to build awareness for the technology and perhaps get people used to it by providing a taste. It may seem like somewhat of a novelty to some at this point, but eventually I would anticipate regular transport vehicles to be run in a similar fashion. It'll take time, but the advancements are coming faster than one might expect. I'll now switch gears and go over some general details for context. ELA is a twelve passenger vehicle set at a max of 12km per hour as it's being tested in Calgary. I was told it can go much faster, but on the type of road it's probably best it doesn't.
While in the city it follows a path from the Zoo LRT station to Telus Spark. Instead of a steering wheel, 3D mapping and localization run behind the scenes. The system utilizes data from 4 LiDAR sensors combined with video cameras located at various points on the vehicle. ELA can evaluate the surroundings in real-time, establish position and trajectory while simultaneously monitoring the environment. It does all of this while moving towards the desired destination. The vehicle is 100% electric powered and that is supported by ACTO. This pilot is a showcase of the forward thinking solutions from Pacific Western Transportation.
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