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Self-Driving Shuttles Hit The Streets At Santa Clara University

SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) -- At Santa Clara University, walking to class is so, like, basic.

Monday is the first day the public gets to ride Auro, an autonomous self-driving campus shuttle, the only one of its kind in the country.

The shuttle is equipped with LIDAR sensors that give the computer a 360 degree view, and tracks objects 100 yards away.

Walk in front of it, and the system knows a human is trying to cross the road.

What makes Auro different, is that they've captured a 3D map of the route.

So, in a sense, the shuttle is driving around in its own virtual world.

The system is programmed to almost always yield the right of way, be non-threatening, and make pedestrians feel welcome.

"So, it feels like a human driving it. Like a nice, courteous human driving it," Auro CTO Jit Ray Chowdhury said.

"When I saw something come out in front of it, it just comes to a complete stop and waits for that obstacle to clear. So, when I saw that happen, I was like OK, these guys know what they're doing," student Tim O'Keefe said.

However, teaching it to be assertive, like in a crowd of people, is a complex problem.

When things get hairy, the operator takes over manual control using a joystick.

Eventually, the computer will learn what to do and how to react on its own.

Auro hopes to equip other college campuses and large companies with a fleet of on-demand shuttles.

Take a ride. Come take a ride and you won't fear it anymore," Auro co-founder and CEO Nalin Gupta said.

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