Autonomous vehicle displayed outside Capitol

Autonomous vehicle displayed outside Capitol

An autonomous vehicle was on display Wednesday afternoon outside the state Capitol building. Lawmakers and passersby had the chance to view and sit inside the white shuttle.

The vehicle is about the size of a large van or small bus, and was manufactured in France by a startup called Navya.

The Governor’s Steering Committee on Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Testing and Deployment met Wednesday, a few hours before the shuttle was displayed.

“We brought it up to the Capitol because we wanted to get it downtown and get some of the people on the committee and stakeholders, legislators, out here to see it,” said Peter Rafferty, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering. “A big part of our mission with this is to really get these things in front of people so that they’re getting comfortable with it. They can ask questions, see how it works, how it feels.”

Originally, the Wisconsin Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds team was going to give demonstrations on the shuttle in downtown Madison. However, they canceled the demonstrations after a different Navya shuttle was involved in a crash with a semitrailer in Las Vegas about a week before. In the crash, Las Vegas police found the driver of the other vehicle to be at fault, not the shuttle.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority at all times, and we wanted to make sure that as the dust settles, even though we weren’t found liable, there was no injuries, no property damage. We just want to make sure that safety continues to be our No. 1 concern,” said Aaron Foster, a business development manager at Navya.

This particular shuttle is typically in use on the University of Michigan’s campus, but it currently is being shipped around the country for demonstrations. It can hold up to 15 people and travels up to 28 miles per hour.

Foster said it’s not meant to be used on highways. Instead, it’s meant for quick trips at lower speeds. It can move continuously for at least nine hours on a single charge.

The event outside the Capitol on Wednesday is part of a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering and the Wisconsin Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds, which has been researching and testing autonomous vehicles.