Autonomous Shuttle Added to The Henry Ford Collection

The Henry Ford in Dearborn has acquired a Navya Autonom Shuttle, donated by Mcity in Ann Arbor. The shuttle will be on display along with signage and passengers’ reactions.
Navya Autonom Shuttle
A Navya Autonom Shuttle has been donated to The Henry Ford by Mcity and will be on display. // Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford in Dearborn has acquired a Navya Autonom Shuttle, donated by Mcity in Ann Arbor. The shuttle will be on display along with signage and passengers’ reactions.

The shuttle was used as part of the first driverless shuttle project in the United States on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor and focused on how passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers interacted with the vehicle. With the shuttle, The Henry Ford also receives data processed by Troy’s J.D. Power regarding rider interaction and reactions.

“It’s imperative that we continue to thoughtfully document the growth and acceptance of autonomous vehicle transportation,” says Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO at The Henry Ford. “The NAVYA Autonom shuttle used by Mcity and the research processed by J.D. Power is a very important piece of helping us continue to grow our automotive collection and tell the future story of mobility.”

Navya delivered its first shuttle in North America to Mcity in December 2016. Less than a year later, Mcity announced plans to launch a shuttle research project to learn more about consumer awareness and trust in automated vehicles.

“We’re delighted that one of the Navya shuttles used in Mcity’s driverless shuttle research project has a new home at The Henry Ford,” says Huei Peng, director of Mcity and Roger L. McCarthy professor of mechanical engineering at U-M. “The historic impact of automated vehicle technology could one day match or exceed that of the automobile itself. The Henry Ford is the ideal place to chronicle that transformation.”

The Mcity Driverless Shuttle research project launched in June 2018 and ran through December 2019. Mcity published a white paper Thursday outlining the results of the project.

Two fully automated, electric, 11-passenger shuttles operated on a fixed route around the North Campus Research Complex, driving on public streets on a one-mile loop at about 10 miles per hour. The route avoided heavy traffic, but the shuttles shared the two-way roadway with other cars, bicycles, and pedestrians in a variety of weather conditions.

“What makes this shuttle so significant is that it’s a story less about technology and more about psychology,” says Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford. “Building a working autonomous vehicle is one thing, but getting people to accept it is something else. Mcity is a leader in studying this important side of the self-driving equation.”

The shuttle had exterior and interior video recorders, as well as interior audio recorders, that captured reactions from people outside the vehicles as well as riders. On-board safety conductors, who were there to stop the shuttle in case of emergency, also observed rider behavior. Mcity staff monitored ridership numbers and patters throughout the project. Riders were also asked to complete surveys.

“Consumer trust will always be the most important factor in the acceptance and use of new technology,” says Kristin Kolodge, executive director of human machine interface and driver interaction at J.D. Power, who worked closely with Mcity on the shuttle project. “Whether it’s public transportation or private vehicles, people need to know the technology is safe. This project served as a great starting point to build that trust.”

The survey was developed by J.D. Power and Mcity and asked for passengers’ reasons for riding, degree of satisfaction, interest level in autonomous vehicle technology, and the degree of trust riders had in the shuttle.

“Navya is honored to have The Henry Ford acquire one of our Autonom Shuttles as part of its collection of vehicles that played a pivotal role in American history,” says Jérôme Rigaud, COO of Navya, which is based in France. “Sitting alongside early automotive examples like Ford’s Quadricycle from 1896, presidential limousines, and iconic Americana like a 1950’s-era Oscar Mayer Wienermobile – the Shuttle will be right at home.

“While vehicles like the Quadricycle help to tell the story of a time when Americans transitioned from animal-powered transportation to engine-powered, the Autonom Shuttle will inform future generations about the era when we transitioned from human driven transportation to computer driven.”

The donation also includes examples of signage installed by Mcity in support of the shuttle project. There are currently no government regulations for signage along a driverless vehicle route.

The vehicle and related items are onsite at The Henry Ford with future plans to digitize for online accessibility.