The U of Waterloo launches the first autonomous 5G shuttle in Canada
The University of Waterloo presents how a self-driving, driverless shuttle research program works that will transport students and staff to campus. The shuttle demonstration, dubbed “WATonoBus” by the research team, is the first of its kind at a Canadian academic institution and marks a milestone in a multi-year initiative to demonstrate and integrate autonomous transportation on campus.
This milestone represents another significant technological advance, as the shuttle becomes the first in the country to operate remotely on Rogers’ 5G network, thanks to a partnership agreement with the University to advance 5G research in the Toronto-technology corridor. Waterloo.
The 5-stop, 2.7-kilometer shuttle ride around the main Waterloo campus, which intersects the campus light rail stop, could help reshape the way entire communities move through their urban spaces .
“We are thrilled not only with WATonoBus, but with what it represents,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “By marrying transformational research, infrastructure and a network of industry and government partnerships, we demonstrate that educational institutions will help shape the future – in this case, the convergence of public transport and smart urban mobility. “
20 researchers in the Mechatronic Vehicle Systems laboratory
The Driverless Shuttle with Remote Support will present a complete system approach, fully developed at the University of Waterloo, led by Professor Amir Khajepour and a team of more than 20 researchers from the Mechatronic Vehicle Systems Laboratory. Financial support has been provided by federal and provincial partners, as well as contributions from Applanix, RoboSense AI and Rogers to make WATonoBus a reality.
The technology includes an integrated on-board sensor system providing vehicle intelligence and control; a suite of front, rear and side cameras offering a 360-degree view; active light sensing and ranging (LIDAR) remote sensing systems used to detect objects; and a WATonoBus smartphone app to help passengers navigate the campus using the shuttle.
An exciting step forward in autonomy
“Today’s demonstration represents more than four years of work with the support and collaboration of government and industry partners,” Khajepour said. “This is an exciting step forward in autonomous and driverless public transport. “
And, for the first time in Canada, an autonomous shuttle will be operated entirely remotely using a 5G network. The on-board modem will communicate via Rogers’ 5G network with a control center based on a research lab. In the control center, a remote operator will monitor the operations of the WATonoBus and take control when needed to ensure safe movement.
Advancing Canada’s Digital Economy
“As real 5G use cases such as the WATonoBus begin to take shape, we are starting to see the potential of 5G come to life,” said Jorge Fernandes, CTO at Rogers Communications. “Smart cities and smart transport solutions are poised to help make cities safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. This example of 5G innovation demonstrates the importance of fostering 5G research and development to help fuel industries and advance Canada’s digital economy. We are proud to contribute to this important 5G moment through our partnership with the University of Waterloo. “
The demonstration is the latest step in a multi-year initiative that creates a test bed to assess automated driving on campus. Future industry partnerships will add more elements of a smart city to the campus, a living test bed for advanced research, product development and data collection.
Before starting to operate as a scheduled service, the driverless shuttle system must be approved by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Currently, the University of Waterloo is a registered participant in the Ontario Automated Vehicle Pilot Program, which tests driverless utility vehicles on Ontario roads.
Federal and provincial funding for the WATonoBus project was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research Fund and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.