Autonomous vehicle demonstration taking place this week

Wisconsin’s first-ever autonomous vehicle demonstration is taking place this week, with opportunities for interested parties to take a ride in a driverless passenger shuttle.

This comes about two months after Gov. Scott Walker’s steering committee on autonomous and connected vehicle testing and deployment had its first meeting. This group includes members of the Legislature, academia, the auto industry, law enforcement and others — all coming together to pave the way for more advanced testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in the state.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation designated the Wisconsin Automated Proving Grounds, or WiscAV, as one of only 10 development hubs for autonomous vehicles around the country. This effort is led by UW-Madison.

“Wisconsin has an opportunity to be a national and international leader in this area, and we are taking the first steps to show everyone in Wisconsin the significance of this opportunity,” says David Noyce, a steering committee member and professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW-Madison.

While many vehicles on the road already have smart features like self-parking and adaptive cruise control, one committee member says there’s a lot of work to do before self-driving vehicles will be “fully ready for all roads.”

“Ninety-five percent of this is relatively easy,” says Peter Rafferty, a researcher in the Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory in the College of Engineering and a leader in WiscAV. “The rest still needs advanced research in areas that include human factors, artificial intelligence, sensing technologies, scenario planning, computational algorithms, winter and hazardous weather driving, public perception, reliability and uncertainty, interaction and communication among vehicles, certification, insurance and others.”

This Saturday, members of the public will have the chance to ride in a self-driving Navya passenger shuttle around UW-Madison’s College of Engineering campus. This vehicle can operate safely without a driver in control, but Noyce says this capacity still has its limits.

“Currently, it only works in certain controlled situations,” he said. “Nevertheless, several municipalities are moving forward to implement driverless transit.”

Saturday’s event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1415 Engineering Drive, with some variability depending on the time of the UW-Madison Badgers’ football game. UW-Madison engineers will be on-hand to discuss ongoing research, opportunities and potential pitfalls surrounding autonomous vehicles.

On Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. WiscAV representatives, members of the steering committee, and some members of the media will get a chance to ride in the shuttle as well.

And for those who just want to take a look, the Navya shuttle will be parked at Wisconsin Avenue on Madison’s Capitol Square on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

–By Alex Moe