With Silicon Valley appearing to be the epicenter for electric vehicle innovation, it’s not too surprising that only 50 miles north, an EasyMile EZ10 self-driving bus is conducting its first demonstration at Bishop Ranch office park in San Ramon. On the heels of California’s new law allowing “slow-speed testing of fully autonomous vehicles without steering wheels on public roads,” French automobile maker Ligier is testing out its driverless 12-passenger shuttle bus.

The EasyMile EZ10

With a focus on safety and EV performance, technology reporters were treated to a fleet of EZ10 shuttle buses maneuvering through a “block-long circuit” mixed in with unplanned safety tests. Habib Shamskhou, Ligier’s project manager, passively strolled in front of one of the shuttles and the EZ10 immediately stopped right before impact – sensing the presence of a pedestrian.

“The EZ10 hybrid sensing approach combines shuttle localization through vision, laser, and differential GPS.”

The EasyMile EZ10 is a $250,000 autonomous bus with no backup driver capable of traveling a max speed of 40 km/hr (25 mph). It has a cruising speed of 20 km/hr (approximately 12.5 mph). Since Ligier’s self-driving bus is designed for public transportation covering short distances (mostly the last mile), speed takes a back seat to obstacle detection and avoidance. Equipped with multi-sensors, an intuitive navigational system and a platform designed for path planning, the Bishop Ranch test was extremely successful. The shuttle stuck to its single traffic lane and immediately recognize obstacles in its path.

“The shuttle service runs on virtual tracks that can be easily configured to accommodate sudden shifts in demand.”

Smart Mobility Solution

Designed to service universities, corporate parks, transportation hubs, healthcare hubs, and urban centers, the EasyMile EZ10 can sustain 14 hours of continuous autonomous operation. With three modes of operation (Metro, Bus, and ‘On Demand’), passengers have the option of getting dropped off at predetermined station stops or summoning the electric shuttle via the EasyMile app – similar to requesting an Uber pickup.

“A ‘safety chain’ as a standalone collision avoidance features adds to the vehicle and user safety.”

As the second largest European microcar dealer, Ligier is no newbie when it comes to manufacturing urban transport vehicles. Calling its shuttle bus “an electric people mover,” Ligier plans on testing its EZ10 fleet over the next four months – ensuring that the autonomous driving platform has zero safety issue prior to unveiling its prototype to the California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. With the goal of having the EZ10 street bound by end of 2017/early 2018, another innovative car manufacturer dedicated to smart mobility is poised to reshape public transportation.

You certainly won’t be able to miss Ligier’s self-driving electric bus – it’s the one with no steering wheel, no driver, and does not have a dedicated front or back. If the six seats are taken, there are six extra spots for those who don’t mind standing while the EZ10 powers up steep San Francisco hills onto its final destination.

Source: Reuters, EasyMile