In Calgary you can ride the bus for free without a driver

In the near future, Calgary residents will be among the first in Western Canada to be able to freely travel by public transport without a driver.

Calgary's electric autonomous shuttle, known as ELA, is one of two self-propelled shuttles that will be available to the public this month in Canada — another pilot project operating in Quebec.

A 12 passenger vehicle will start transporting people between the Calgary Zoo and the Telus Spark Science Center on a separate road, without other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

The low-speed trip takes approximately 3½ minutes from one side to the other and is open to online bookings and walk-ins.

“It really helps us explore what the future might look like,” said Andrew Sedor of the Calgary administration.

The information gathered through the one-month pilot program will influence future urban planning decisions and help scientists understand how people respond to changing technologies.

How it works

A vehicle without a driver moves along its trajectory using the signals it receives from approximately 20 satellites orbiting the earth. This is similar to how a car’s GPS works, but with much greater accuracy.

“We use our high-precision technology, which focuses on accuracy up to two centimeters, to keep the car on its way,” explained Jonathan Auld, vice president of engineering for Hexagon Positioning Intelligence.

To help avoid obstacles, ELA is equipped with LIDAR, which means Light Detection and Ranging.

But there will still be an operator on board who will help passengers feel at ease.

It is expected that the pilot project will work for one month, but it can be expanded if it turns out to be popular. Pacific Western Group, which helps sponsor the project, says it plans to launch similar pilot projects for British Columbia and Ontario.

“Obviously, this is the way of the future,” said Dani Finley, Pacific Western Vice President for Business Development. “We want to be leaders in this area. We want to introduce this type of technology in Canada and allow Canadians to experience this autonomous technology. ”

Autonomous bus trips began last Saturday.