A driverless electric shuttle makes its way through the EPFL campus

December 7, 2012 by Emmanuel Barraud
A driverless electric shuttle makes its way through the EPFL campus
First drive under the waves of the Rolex Learning Center. Credit: Murielle Gerber / EPFL 2012

Created by the French society Induct, Navia shuttles are designed to transport people over the "first and last miles" of a journey. EPFL's Innovation Square hosts a Research and Development team for Induct and will use its first vehicle for education and experiment, before setting up a real transportation service on the campus.

EPFL users might be surprised to see, in the days to come, a small white vehicle wandering around in the campus, possibly with no one on board! The School has acquired the first Navia driverless electric , created by the French company Induct, whose R&D team just installed offices in the Innovation Square in a research partnership.

Invented in 2009, Navia carries up to eight people at a maximum speed of 20 km/h, and was designed to complement conventional transportation, be it public or private. You could compare it to an elevator operating horizontally: the customer calls for it from a station thanks to a terminal or a smartphone app, steps in, chooses the destination on a touch screen... and can start reading the newspaper while the machine makes its way.

The Navia is fitted with laser telemetry, GPS, 3D cameras and sensors that detect the vehicle's acceleration (accelerometers) and its rotation (gyroscopes) around all three axes (to and fro, side to side, up and down), enabling it to instantly calculate its position, route and distance traveled. It analyses all this information – location, route, and obstacles – in real time. Any perturbation on the way is dealt with by the on-board computer. The vehicle will either stop or avoid the problem. The environement is analyzed ten times per second over 360° and with a 200 meter range. "Under 50 meters, the computer knows if it's faced with a fixed or moving obstacle, calculates its speed and anticipates its route", states Pierre Levèvre, Founder and CEO of Induct.

EPFL: an open-air laboratory for the Navia

To step up its research into induction charging technology and artificial intelligence, Induct decided to work with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The automated electric vehicle will be tested under real operating conditions on the EPFL campus. The research carried out will further the Navia's development and reveal new uses. "Our partnership with Induct enables us to advance our scientific research into induction charging and artificial intelligence, not just in the lab but also outside. This project takes its place in the development of our Innovation District, home to a number of startups in our Science Park. We're delighted to be taking part in this project," says Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli, EPFL's Vice-President for and Technology Transfer.

Professor Francis-Luc Perret, Vice-President for Planning and Logistics, adds: "As part of its Mobility Plan the EPFL is exploring the most innovative public transport solutions for the "last mile" (and the first). Following a public call for bids issued in 2011, the EPFL has chosen the solution offered by Induct and intends to collaborate to validate this concept with the competent authorities and its long-term implementation."

Explore further: Air quality sensors take a ride on Swiss city buses

Related Stories

Air quality sensors take a ride on Swiss city buses

June 27, 2011

Rather than installing stations on fixed towers, why not use mobile sensors spread out over the whole city to get better air quality measurements? OpenSense, a project run by four laboratories at EPFL and one at ETH Zurich, ...

Swiss, Nissan research car that reads the driver's thoughts

September 28, 2011

In the future, thinking about turning left may no longer be just a thought. Japanese auto giant Nissan and a Swiss university are developing cars that scan the driver's thoughts and prepares the vehicle for the next move.

420 magical seconds in space

December 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new tool to calculate the orientation of a satellite with respect to the Earth, developed by EPFL students, will be on board a European Space Agency rocket scheduled to launch in March 2012. This will be ...

Total autopilot: A step closer

September 20, 2012

(Phys.org)—Will planes someday fly without pilots? Three EPFL laboratories, commissioned by Honeywell and operating under the auspices of EPFL's Transportation Center, are working on this possibility by developing collision-prediction, ...

Recommended for you

Nevada researchers trying to turn roadside weed into biofuel

November 26, 2015

Three decades ago, a University of Nevada researcher who obtained one of the first U.S. Energy Department grants to study the potential to turn plants into biofuels became convinced that a roadside weed—curly top gumweed—was ...

Glider pilots aim for the stratosphere

November 20, 2015

Talk about serendipity. Einar Enevoldson was strolling past a scientist's office in 1991 when he noticed a freshly printed image tacked to the wall. He was thunderstruck; it showed faint particles in the sky that proved something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.