A PROJECT COMBINING INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
Called ADORE, for Autonomously Delivered Orders from Restaurants at EPFL, this test explores autonomous technology in its multiple dimensions: robotics, computing, mechanics, telecommunications, interactions with road users… Coordinated by Durabilité EPFL and in partnership with the Restaurants and Shops unit (RESCO), it tests the technology with the autonomous electric shuttle delivery of goods or meals, according to different scenarios that will evolve over the weeks.
One metre wide and just under 3 metres long, it is no more than 1.8 metres high. It is fully electric and equipped with more than 15 sensors, 5 cameras, a touch screen and a satellite reception antenna using new technology capable of determining its position precisely in real time. It cannot carry people, but contains 22 code-locked compartments on each side that can hold the goods to be transported. Its speed can reach 50km/h but on campus it is restricted to 6km/h and will be constantly chaperoned by a student. Designed by the Chinese company Neolix, the vehicle is provided by the Swiss Post.
The autonomous shuttle will run between the Rolex Learning Center, the Esplanade, the Starling Hotel and the student accommodation the Estudiantines. Stops with information panels have been installed at the different delivery points.
THE THREE PHASES OF THE PROJECT
It is estimated to last two weeks, allowing operators and users of the campus to familiarise themselves with the newcomer. The vehicle travels in real-life situations, autonomously on the marked route programmed into its guidance software.
In this first phase, the shuttle runs between the Esplanade, the Starling Hotel and the student residence from Monday to Thursday from 11 am to 1 pm. Stops with information panels have been installed at the delivery points. Here the public can find out how the shuttle bus works.
For at least two weeks, the vehicle will be used to deliver meals to a selection of participants. The shuttle will pick up, again independently but accompanied, the food provided by the Takinoa restaurant at the RLC. In addition to the Esplanade, the Starling and the Estudiantines, the shuttle will serve the EPFL Innovation Park. The pre-selected people will be able to choose a niche and a delivery location. 300 metres from the stop, the shuttle will send a text message to the recipient to warn them of their arrival and the access code to the locker containing their cold meal. Another SMS will signal his or her arrival. The locker will also collect the washable dishes from the day before. Alongside the technological objectives (management of orders, locations, delivery times, etc.), the interest of this phase is also to evaluate the delivery experience of the participants.
Depending on the results of the first two phases, the objective of the third phase is to extend the delivery of meals or even goods to the entire EPFL community. At the same time, scientific projects may be grafted on with laboratories or external partners, whether in terms of optimising routes, securing communications, image analysis or sociological acceptance, for example.
However, the conditional remains the rule. As in any pioneering project, one obstacle after another must be overcome in order to move forward. Although autonomous shuttles already criss-crossed the Ecublens campus in 2015, this pilot project had to get the green light from the public authorities once again. Depending on the results and projects, ADORE will last between two and four months.