The province of Gelderland in the Netherlands, is realising a pilot with two selfdriving vehicles (with no steering wheel nor pedals) in the FoodValley region between Ede/Wageningen railway station and Wageningen University & Research centre (WUR) and on the WUR campus. The so called WEpods vehicles have a hospitality function for (foreign) guests of the WUR. With this pilot the province of Gelderland substantiates its ambitions for new, flexible, sustainable and social mobility.
Why the name ‘WEpod’? A pod is the common name for a (small) automated vehicle. Pod refers to a shell for precious content. WE stands for Wageningen and Ede and for everybody (we) who are involved in the project: the province, FoodValley Region, the project group, residents, users etc. WE shows that we are doing it together and that we can be proud, if we turn this project thanks to everyone’s contribution into success.
The WEpods project focusses on knowledge development and knowledge sharing. Every problem that we encounter contributes to further knowledge development. The pilot doesn’t deliver a ready system but a partnership between companies, governments and knowledge institutions who will make a joint effort towards automated driving on public roads.
There are several initiatives with selfdriving vehicles all over the world like the Rotterdam Rivium shuttle bus, the Heathrow shuttles, and the Masdar pods. However these vehicles operate on dedicated lanes. The Citymobil2 project is demonstrating selfdriving vehicles on public roads with a steward on board. The WEpods project will operate on public roads in mixed traffic. A control room will monitor vehicle operation and safety, and initially a steward may accompany the guests in the vehicle. WEpods will initially focus on a fixed route, and can be extended to new routes and to other regions in the Netherlands, providing a quality leap for public transport.
When the system is ready, foreign guests of the WUR can reserve a WEpod through an App. The WEpod will wait for the visitor at the train station and the visitor can open the WEpod with his or her smartphone. The WEpod will drive at a maximum speed of 25 kilometers an hour to the WUR. During the trip the guest will get information about the environment and the vehicle.
The vehicle adopted for the WEpods project is the EZ-10 of EasyMile, developed for the Citymobil2 project. The WEpods consortium will equip the vehicles will with additional technical equipment like camera’s, laser, radar and GPS to detect and interpret the surroundings and to drive safely.