Autonomous Shuttle Brakes for Squirrels, Skateboarders, and Texting Students

It’s pretty much a driver’s nightmare. Santa Clara University’s campus is crisscrossed with wide pathways—most of them off-limits to normal automotive traffic other than campus service vehicles. So squirrels, pedestrians, and students riding bicycles and weaving around on skateboards rule. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to drive it and have to be on constant alert, thinking: Is that skateboarder, to my right, about to cut across the path? Did this student staring at her phone really just stop right in front of me—in the middle of the path? And what is the kid, to my left—the one on the bicycle who just popped out from behind a clump of students to speed around them—going to do next?

But even though I’m in a small shuttle running its regular route around the campus, and I’m positioned in what would normally be the driver’s seat, I don’t have to worry about any of that. Santa Clara University is using an autonomous vehicle from Auro Robotics on the route for eight hours most days, three hours on Sundays. The Auro shuttle is a boon to students and faculty members with mobility issues,…[Read more]