MONTREAL GROUP DEVELOPING AUTONOMOUS EV SHUTTLE TO SUPPORT MASS TRANSPORTATION
This story is brought to you in part by Energy Systems & Designs
By Cori Marshall
Montrealers are no strangers to mass transit, it has been present in the city since the 1860s. For more than a 150 years the vehicles used have evolved from streetcars to buses. Then, the underground metro system arrived in 1966. Now, PIT Group is developing a shuttle of a new kind, right here in the city.
Yves Provencher, Director of Market and Business Development for PIT Group, said that "the concept is based on a shuttle we [developed] for the Calgary airport." The new shuttle is being designed as a four-season vehicle and will be put to the test in the harsh winters in Central Canada. It is believed that "if it works in Ontario and Québec, it will work anywhere in the world."
The shuttle is set apart from other shuttles because "it is completely autonomous." No human intervention is needed, even for charging. Provencher explained that "the system will recognize when the [battery] needs to be charged," and the vehicle will drive itself to a pantograph charging station to complete the task.
Provencher highlighted that the system is intelligent enough to know to charge its batteries outside of peak periods," like rush hour. Barring unforeseen issues the system can operate autonomously for a few days.
The shuttle has no driver, how does it know where to go?
The shuttle will be equipped with multiple sensor systems. Provencher said that it will have "GPS, vision systems, meters on the wheels, to tell the vehicle where it is and where the obstacles are." The vehicle will have a programmed path, which could be considered a "virtual rail," and users will have the opportunity to call for service using a cell phone.
The goal of this system is not to replace the vehicles that are currently in a mass transit system. Provencher said that "it is a feeder [system] for mass transit." The shuttle will be able to reach areas that large city buses can't. Provencher suggested that the shuttle "being zero emission, could drive into a shopping mall pick up passengers," and take them to a bus route or metro.
The PIT Group has announced the team members that will be working on the project, which a six-month window to produce a work plan. Provencher explained that it will only be after the work plan "that we will [create] a budget." Currently, there are no exact figures on how much it will cost to produce this Electric Vehicle.
The group does not want to force their product on a given city and has entered into consultations with stakeholders and users to tailor the project to what the consumers really want. What the group is hearing from the city is that they "want it to be friendly [in appearance], because it will drive in residential neighbourhoods."
The shuttle project is expected to take three years to complete. The EV shuttle is not about to break any speed records and will have a top speed of about 30 kilometres an hour. For now, the vehicle has no name, though a contest will be held "with the goal of finding a name and a logo." Whatever the name will be, when this autonomous EV shuttle hits the streets, it will turn heads.