Driverless Shuttle Being Tested in Paris
Navya Technologies is currently training a fleet of robot-driven shuttles to navigate the streets of Paris and hopes to bring them to the United States in 2018.
Have you ever boarded a shuttle and wished it were autonomous? After all, you wouldn't have to make small talk with the driver. Plus, it would be a smoother ride without a human pilot at the helm. Navya Technologies may have the answer for you. They are currently training robot-driven shuttles to navigate the streets of Paris. Soon, your shuttle driver may have more in common with R2-D2 than it does with a human operator.
Testing prepares Navya for U.S. launch
Navya hopes to sell at least 150 driverless shuttles in the states by 2018. In preparation, they are testing their robo-shuttles on the streets of the Paris financial district. This location was chosen partially because the company's current factory is in Lyon, France. They currently have approximately 50 demos roaming Parisian motorways.
Along with French supplier Valeo, Navya is working to build a $1 million-dollar plant near Ann Arbor, Michigan. The hope is to have the rust-belt produce battery-powered vehicles for the U.S. market. Navya has already shipped two vehicles to the University of Michigan, where they are to be used as campus transportation.
Driverless Shuttle Design
The current model being tested by Navya is the Arma, a 15-passenger shuttle with a top speed of about 16 mph. The shuttle is capable of the highest level of autonomy, Level 5. Of course, it's all electric and its batteries can be charged by induction. The batteries last approximately 13 to 15 hours – long enough to get you nearly ¾ of the way from San Francisco to L.A., traveling at 16 mph.
How the Shuttle Makes Decisions
To make decisions while driving, the Navya receives data from a multitude of sources. The robot driver is monitored by engineers and continuously learns new skills. The following are some of the main decision-making inputs.
•LIDAR Sensors: Light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors are used to provide 3D perception of the environment for positioning and obstacle avoidance.
•GPS: GPS is used to provide communication between the vehicle and a base station to determine vehicle location.
•Odometer: An odometer is used to measure wheel speed to determine velocity and vehicle position.
•Camera stereovision: For environmental analysis, camera stereovision is used.
The future of the Navya Arma
So far, the Arma has been able to traverse the streets of Paris without indecent – even while encountering several hundred pedestrians each day. Navya hopes to sell some 450 units worldwide next year, with a third of those sales taking place in the U.S. The company has ambitious goals of going head-to-head with the likes of Uber and Google.
Are consumers ready for a driverless shuttle? According to the smiling passengers in the Navya marketing videos, yes. In reality, there may still be a ways to go before vehicles like the Arma become mainstream. But, we're getting there – one transistor at a time.