The WEpod does not bring many people together. The two information evenings on the self-driving van that is scheduled to hit the road this fall, only drew a handful of visitors.
The small amount of visitors on the evenings in Bennekom (Monday) and Ede (Tuesday) is not entirely a reflection of the interest. Only nearby residents of the route that the van will drive between station Ede and the campus were personally invited. A fraction of them took the trouble to receive explanation on the WEpod.
This mainly resulted in practical questions about the safety of the bus without a driver. For example, what happens if someone throws a stone on the road? The answer: no idea. The WEpod is an experiment, emphasizes project leader WEpod Alwin Bakker of the province Gelderland. That is precisely the exciting part, he states. ‘We will encounter all sorts of things that we for now cannot entirely foresee.’
Precisely because of that the project relies on the public, explains overall project manager Jan Willem van der Wiel (Spring Innovation Management). The WEpod is looking for a community of people who are involved or just curious about how the project goes. Via the brand new site wepods.nl you can sign up to be part of that community, to discuss or to ask questions.
So questions about what happens when there is a stone on the road that is unknown to the vehicle. The experts disagree with each other on the spot what is the best solution. Waiting until someone else removes the stone? Or ask from the control room in Ede via the intercom if a passenger wants to get off to remove the stone? There are different thoughts about that. But according to Bakker it illustrates pretty well how this pilot works.
Local residents were especially curious about the possible hindrance the van might deliver them. Not much, according to Van der Wiel. In Ede admittedly, there will be a new and temporary traffic light to enable the WEpod to safely cross the Emmalaan, but it only works when the van arrives. And that is only a few times a day, says Van der Wiel. The WEpod is no public transport and has a very irregular 'timetable'.
The new website contains a lot of information about the project, with which the province Gelderland wants to put the region on the map as an innovative hotspot. Including a (rather roaring) video about the project. The two information evenings will get a sequel after the summer in Wageningen. For the campus there will probably be a separate meeting.