The Turin Test: First self-driving public transport vehicle hits the road in Italy

An electrically-powered shuttle drove round the streets of Turin on Tuesday, the first self-driving vehicle for public transport to be tested in Italy.

Less than five metres long and two metres wide, the shuttle, developed by French start-up Navya, can carry up to fourteen passengers and is accessible to all, thanks to a moving platform allowing people to board the vehicle.

The autonomous vehicle can drive in normal urban traffic and detect obstacles, cars, bicycles, or pedestrians thanks to its sensors and its GPS but a driver will be always on board and will be able to steer the vehicle if necessary using a joypad.

“It has a GPS like in your car but more precise,” Commissioning Specialist for Navya Shuttle, Thomas Zaplana, told Reuters. “We map all the streets, a 3D map of the streets so the shuttle can recognise itself in the map.”

The vehicle will be free of charge and tested without passengers until October. After the tests, it will be available until March 2023 along a two-kilometre route in the hospital area of Turin.

The shuttle, which could reach a maximum speed of 25 km per hour and has an average battery life of 9 hours. It will be in service for 6 hours on weekdays and 4 hours on holidays and public holidays, with rides that can be booked via an app.