07.12.12 - Created by the French society Induct, Navia shuttles are designed to transport people over the “first and last miles” of a journey. EPFL's Innovation Square hosts a Research and Development team for Induct and will use its first vehicle for education and experiment, before setting up a real transportation service on the campus.

EPFL users might be surprised to see, in the days to come, a small white vehicle wandering around in the campus, possibly with no one on board! The School has acquired the first Navia driverless electric shuttle, created by the French company Induct, whose R&D team just installed offices in the Innovation Square in a research partnership.

Invented in 2009, Navia carries up to eight people at a maximum speed of 20 km/h, and was designed to complement conventional transportation, be it public or private. You could compare it to an elevator operating horizontally: the customer calls for it from a station thanks to a terminal or a smartphone app, steps in, chooses the destination on a touch screen... and can start reading the newspaper while the machine makes its way.

The Navia is fitted with laser telemetry, GPS, 3D cameras and sensors that detect the vehicle’s acceleration (accelerometers) and its rotation (gyroscopes) around all three axes (to and fro, side to side, up and down), enabling it to instantly calculate its position, route and distance traveled. It analyses all this information – location, route, and obstacles – in real time. Any perturbation on the way is dealt with by the on-board computer. The vehicle will either stop or avoid the problem. The environement is analyzed ten times per second over 360° and with a 200 meter range. “Under 50 meters, the computer knows if it's faced with a fixed or moving obstacle, calculates its speed and anticipates its route”, states Pierre Levèvre, Founder and CEO of Induct. 

EPFL: an open-air laboratory for the Navia
Philippe Vollichard, Deputy to the Vice-President for Planning and Logistics, explains: "Our collaboration with Induct enables us to make effective progress on our scientific research work on induction charging and artificial intelligence, not only in the laboratory, but also outdoors. This project fits in the development of our Innovation Square, where we welcome many start-ups to our Scientific Park. We are delighted to take part in the project since, within the framework of its Mobility Plan, EPFL is exploring the most innovative public transport solutions for the first and last kilometer. Following a public tender procedure launched in 2011, EPFL identified the solution put forward by Induct and means to contribute to that concept's validation with the competent authorities. The school hopes to be able to deploy this technology on a large scale."

Other projects and technology partnerships are being developed, with the University of West Florida in the USA and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University for instance.