Although we are quite a long ways off from the picture of the ‘future’ seen in most science fiction movies, engineers, programmers and scientists have made some impressive leaps forward in technology in the past few years. Mobile devices can now be found in almost every pocket and briefcase in the country, giving millions of Americans the ability to shop, bank, navigate and entertain themselves with a computer that fits in the palm of your hand. The space program may not have taken us beyond our galaxy, but it routinely gives us astounding images of the solar system and insight into the origins of life on this planet. If you care about environmental sustainability, automotive manufacturers have delivered on the promise of modern technology, with fleets of hybrid and fully-electric vehicles now available to the general consumer. And a unique partnership between Google and Toyota has resulted in the successful testing of an automated car, which eventually will save fuel and lives all across the world.
While this driverless technology is still in the research and development phase here in the United States, other parts of the world have found ways to integrate the aspects of that technology that have been mastered to make a real impact both on quality of life and support of our environment. For example, head over to Switzerland to find a driverless electric shuttle that is making a major difference on a college campus. The school is called Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, and although that sounds incredibly fancy it is a public university. The institute of technology has received these driverless electric shuttles from Induct, a French manufacturing company hoping they’ve done their part to crack the autonomous vehicle problem.
Induct’s shuttle can only drive at twelve miles per hour or slower, so it’s not exactly ready to speed down the highway. But efficiency is the primary goal on this college campus, and students are more than happy to get off their feet with the help of the shuttle. It still gets these kids from building to building faster than hoofing it, and with zero emissions as well.
The process of calling the shuttle is just as innovative and high tech as the shuttle itself. Students download an app for their smartphone, and call it through the app as they would a cab. The shuttle uses built-in GPS to find their location, and the student then taps their destination of choice into the vehicle’s touch screen. The shuttle also has 3D sensors and cameras on top of the GPS system, and uses laser telemetry to navigate. It can immediately call up it’s exactly position, the route it means to travel and the distance it has already gone.
It’s an incredible device, and Induct is already considering where the shuttle could be used in the future. Next on the list seems to be the University of West Florida here in the United States, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. But Induct wants the shuttle to have more far-reaching applications than just a commuting device for those who forgo online education degrees. They see the shuttle working in vast parking lots, such as those run by airports, shopping malls, large pedestrian spots and even office parks.