Canada’s longest autonomous shuttle launches in Whitby, east of Toronto

This week, Durham Region Transit cut the ribbon on the Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric – WAVE – shuttle pilot, a biannual project serving a six-kilometer road connecting a waterfront neighborhood to a transit hub.

The future of public transit in the city of Whitby, Ontario is shaping up to be a little more futuristic with the launch of the Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric (WAVE) pilot, a driverless, emissions-free electric shuttle.

After months of vehicle testing, the eight-seater shuttle – named Olli – began accepting its first public passengers this week at a historic moment for the project, which has gone on for years.

“The pilot project is part of the broader efforts underway at Durham Region Transit to provide smarter, more convenient and more responsive mobility options for our customers,” said Jamie Austin, deputy general manager of business services at Durham Region Transit. Electric autonomy in a statement sent by email.

“With these shuttles, we can reach further into areas of our region that are not suitable for full-size conventional bus service, making it easier for customers to access public transportation closer to their place of residence. and work and connect to our network of transit services. We’re excited to start the service with the WAVE shuttle and get feedback from our customers on what they think of the vehicles. ”

For maximum safety, the WAVE shuttle only runs at 18 kilometers per hour and has a safety officer on board to take charge of orders if necessary.

“When you are on board, you will see that the shuttle is much safer than a regular driver. He sees everything and if a vehicle or a person or an animal [is] getting too close it will slow down and stop, ”said Tenille Houston, co-founder and CEO of the Ottawa-based company AutoGuardian, the project manager for the WAVE pilot, in an interview with Electric autonomy.

Integration into a public transport service

Dubbed the longest autonomous shuttle route in North America by project funders, Olli follows a six-kilometer route that begins at the Whitby GO transit station, takes passengers through residential, recreational and buildings in the Port Whitby area before returning to the transit station. The pilot will run until approximately April 2022.

Much of the WAVE pilot project is funded by the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), a research and development partnership fund administered by the Ontario Innovation Center. Some of the other collaborative partners in the project include the provincial government, the municipal governments of Durham and Whitby, Smartcone Technologies, Metrolinx, Ontario Tech University and Nokia Canada.

The Olli vehicle is made in the USA, by Local Engines, headquartered in Arizona.

With transit riders now allowed on board, this is one of the first times in Canada that an autonomous shuttle and smart infrastructure were integrated into an existing transit network, as part of Durham Region Transit’s service route 300.

Last year, as part of a project led by Transport Canada, two low-speed autonomous shuttles were also tested for 10 days on public roads at the Tunney’s Pasture campus in Ottawa.

“We are proud to be the host community for this project which highlights the Whitby and Durham region as leaders in innovation and environmentally sustainable solutions. The advanced technology used in this project will help make Whitby’s roads safer and encourage more people to get out of their cars and use public transport, ”Whitby Mayor Don Mitchell said in a statement. emailed to Autonomy Electric Canada.

“I can’t wait for our residents to experience this innovation in their hometown. ”

Smarter infrastructure

In addition to being the project manager, AutoGuardian, which provides technology for autonomous vehicle pilots, is also responsible for operating the intelligent infrastructure.

There are 50 “smart torches” along the route that Olli is following that flash and play audio messages to notify passengers that the shuttle is arriving at a certain stop and to alert them to prepare to put on their masks in order to stop. monitor health and the COVID pandemic. security measures.

Additionally, multi-sensor devices have been installed at intersections to collect data on how drivers, cyclists and pedestrians react to the shuttle, Houston explains.

The project will help demonstrate the infrastructure needed to prepare other public roads in Canada for autonomous vehicles and provide experts with the opportunity to study the operational, financial and customer service implications, adds Austin of Durham Region Transit. .

The shuttle will be operational on weekdays during off-peak hours from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to reduce the impact of traffic on the community and on weekends between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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