You'll be able to ride self-driving electric shuttles in Alberta's largest cities this fall

Calgarians and Edmontonians will be able to test-ride autonomous, electric vehicles for free once two pilot programs launch later this year.

First time in Canada that this kind of pilot program has been accessible to general public

The ELA shuttle, which will be involved in autonomous vehicle pilot programs in both Calgary and Edmonton, seats 12 and comes equipped with a mobility ramp, air conditioning and 4G connectivity for data monitoring. (RideWithEla/Facebook)

Calgarians and Edmontonians will be able to test-ride autonomous, electric shuttles for free once two pilot programs launch later this year. 

This is the first time in Canada that this kind of pilot program has been made accessible to the general public, according to Andrew Sedor, a transportation planner with the City of Calgary, as the projects were announced in Edmonton Wednesday.

Dubbed the "ELA," the EasyMile EZ10 will seat 12 and will travel at low speeds — roughly 12 km/h — and on separate roadways where there are no other vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians.

In Calgary, the free shuttle will run between the Telus Spark Science Centre and the Calgary Zoo along a service lane.

The route in Edmonton will be announced later this summer once it is approved by Alberta Transportation. It should be operational in October, said Stephanie McCabe with the City of Edmonton.

The pilot projects will likely operate for up to one month, but may be extended if feedback is positive.

"If the public really, really enjoys it, then we can definitely explore running it for longer," Sedor says.

About the ELA

​This particular vehicle has been tested in 20 countries on four different continents, and is in permanent use in both Singapore and Arlington, Texas, said Dan Finley, vice-president of business development with the Pacific Western Group of Companies, which is helping sponsor the project.

Finley says the vehicle model that will be tested in Alberta has already transported several hundred thousand people around the world. (CBC)

Finley said the vehicle has been tested in all sorts of weather environments, from humidity to snow. 

The ELA, which is made by the French company EasyMile, is fully electric and has no steering wheel. It uses 3D mapping and localization data from four sensors and additional video cameras as it steers itself.

It can connect to a 4G network, which allows for remote supervision and data monitoring by both Pacific Western Transportation and researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. 

Information collected by the program will inform future urban planning decisions and help academics understand how people respond to changing technologies.

The projects are the result of a partnership between academia, industry and all three levels of government.