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WMU Helps Design Driverless VA Shuttle

Courtesy WMU College of Engineering

Self-driving vehicles may seem far off, but they are coming to Michigan and could change public transportation. One new project involves Western Michigan University and the Battle Creek Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

The $2.2 million project was included in former governor Rick Snyder's $8 million "Mobility Challenge" announced in 2018. Current Governor Gretchen says the project will give veterans, seniors, and the disabled in Michigan more access to transportation.

Zach Asher is an assistant engineering professor at Western involved in the project being led by Pratt and Miller Engineering. He says it, Western, the University of Michigan, and others, are working on the design of two self-driving shuttles for the Battle Creek VA Medical Center. Asher says replacing its current shuttles with automated vehicles would cut costs and increase their availability to veterans.

Western Michigan University's College of Engineering - file photo by Andrew Robins, WMUK
Credit Andrew Robins / WMUK
WMU College of Engineering

Asher says he hopes the project will encourage Western to get involved in other aspects of the evolving automotive industry. “All of this can help train the next generation of automotive engineers right here in Kalamazoo.”

Asher says his team of graduate students will help with environmental mapping and modeling for the shuttles. Asher says he hopes this is just the first of many projects involving automated vehicles at Western.

“In completing this project and solving these problems, we can then try to become more aggressive and think about operating the vehicle outside the boundary of the VA Medical Campus.”

Asher says the autonomous shuttle should be ready for demonstrations this fall.

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