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MSU debuts autonomous electric bus

MSU plans to run this 22-passenger electric, self-driving bus starting in Spring 2022.
Kevin Lavery
MSU plans to run this 22-passenger electric, self-driving bus starting in Spring 2022.

Michigan State University will operate its first electric autonomous bus on campus in the Spring 2022 semester.

After years of research with experimental vehicles, Michigan State University is unveiling its first autonomous bus.

The electric, self-driving bus uses sensors to detect traffic flow and can adjust its own speed, braking and turns.

The bus can carry 22 passengers and, when in service, will travel nonstop between the Farm Lane commuter lot to the MSU Auditorium.

For safety, a driver monitors behind the wheel.

MSU Interim Director of Mobility Satish Udpa says the bus has already performed more than 400 test runs to ensure safety.

He’s convinced self-driving technology will ultimately save lives.

“An autonomous bus doesn’t get tired, it doesn’t lose its attention, it’s on its peak performance all the time, which means our roads are going to be a lot safer,” said Udpa. “We’re not going to see as many deaths in the future.”

Ali Peker is CEO and co-founder of ADASTEC, the San Francisco-based company that developed the technology.

He says autonomous vehicles have been the biggest change in transportation since the beginning of this century.

“And it will change everything,” Peker said. “We believe that if we can provide a good product, we will be able to take a larger part (of the) share of clean transportation.”

The bus will undergo more testing over the next few months.

It’s expected to become operational in the Spring 2022 semester.

Kevin Lavery is a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things considered.
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