MSU’s New Electric Autonomous Bus Launches in January

Michigan State University in East Lansing introduced an electric autonomous bus that will serve students, staff, and faculty beginning early 2022 as part of the campus’ smart mobility ecosystem.
MSU Students ride the new Autonomous Bus by Adastec Corp. on an autumn morning. Adastec is partnering with Michigan State University (MSU) to roll out a full-size, electric Level 4 automated bus on MSU’s campus in East Lansing, Michigan, USA. The pilot will service a 7-mile route and will be open to the public beginning in 2021.
Michigan State University introduced the electric autonomous bus that will begin running on its campus in January. // Courtesy of MSU

Michigan State University in East Lansing introduced an electric autonomous bus that will serve students, staff, and faculty beginning early 2022 as part of the campus’ smart mobility ecosystem.

It is one of the largest electric autonomous transit vehicles deployed in the U.S. to date.

“The mobility space is a core focus at MSU and we continue to seek out partnerships that accelerate our research and development efforts and enhance the mobility landscape not only on our campus but throughout our beautiful state and the country,” says Dr. Samuel Stanley, president of MSU. “This new autonomous bus symbolizes the types of advancements we’ve made at Michigan State to be on the cutting edge of the transportation of tomorrow.”

Through its collaboration with the state of Michigan, bus manufacturer Karsan and ADASTEC — a San Francisco-based company that delivers advanced automated transportation platforms for full-size commercial vehicles — MSU will deploy the bus after intense on-campus testing and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration validation of the bus, route, and infrastructure.

The Karsan Autonomous e-ATAK bus will complement MSU Mobility’s effort to test, validate, and research all areas of mobility via its connected ecosystem, featuring 8.1 square-miles of contiguous urban, suburban, industrial, and rural zones.

It has 22 seats, with students, staff, and faculty being able to board and depart the bus at two stations on campus. The bus’s 2.5-mile route will run non-stop, roundtrip from the MSU Auditorium to the MSU commuter lot at the intersection of Farm Lane and Mt. Hope. This lot houses the largest solar carport array in North America.

To make this non-stop route possible, all traffic lights along the route will be controlled through intelligent roadside units and will actively communicate with the bus to improve its safety. To ensure optimal safety, a driver from ADASTEC’s Detroit office will be present onboard at all times, prepared to take control if needed.

“We are excited to expand our reach into Michigan and partner on this pilot project with one of the leading universities in the mobility space to assist in its pursuit of an autonomous, sustainable future,” says Ali Peker, CEO of ADASTEC. “The MSU campus offers the ideal environment for proving the capabilities of autonomous transportation in a connected, diverse and real-world setting.”

The bus offers level 4 autonomy — meaning it can operate without any human interaction —  was manufactured by Karsan and updated with ADASTEC’s advanced autonomous technologies, which are designed for large-scale public transport.

A $100,000 grant through the Michigan Office of Mobility and Electrification, which was awarded to ADASTEC, helped make this collaboration possible. The bus was initially slated to arrive on campus at the beginning of the year but was delayed due to the pandemic.

“Having an electric autonomous bus of this scale in our backyard is incredible,” says Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer. “It gives us a hands-on tool that can help educate MSU students and staff members as well as the surrounding communities about the importance and applicability of vehicles of this kind in our society. MSU’s connected campus is an asset to proving out autonomous technology and helping us realize the full potential of this type of public transportation.”