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CES: Induct Claims 1st Fully Electric, Self-Driving Shuttle in US

Though autonomous privately owned cars and trucks are not yet fully ready or approved for streets, highways, and super-highways, Induct has developed an intelligent, electric, and driverless shuttle, called Navia, in the US. I attended a live demonstration of the vehicle at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this week on Thursday January 9. I will let you know how the experience goes. I'm excited to talk to designers about more tech details. (See The birth of Induct’s self-driving shuttle.)

Induct Technology was founded in 2004 near Paris, France, as a robotic auto specialist focused on the development of embedded geo-location systems and wireless communications solutions. The company introduced Navia in 2011.

This company was the only European company invited to participate in the DARPA Grand Challenge race for autonomous vehicles in the Mojave Desert. It is fully dedicated to the development of high-tech and environmentally friendly mobility management products and the associated services for operating commercial vehicle fleets.

The guidance technique utilizes advanced robotics, laser mapping technology, and sensors that detect the vehicle's acceleration and rotation. The vehicle electronics instantly calculates its position, nearby obstacles, route, and distance traveled in real-time.

When passengers board the vehicle, they find a touchscreen displaying the various stop choices. They select their destination on the screen, and the shuttle automatically drives there. The shuttle can be set on a specific schedule and route, or can travel where needed, when needed, letting users summon the shuttle with their smartphones. The company claims that this is also the only driverless shuttle that needs no special infrastructure such as rails or a designated path, so it can work on any kind of site.

Check out this video, s'il vous plait .

I like the fact that the vehicle is environmentally friendly, it is fully electric with no emissions and can travel at 12.5 mph with as many as eight passengers.

The vehicle is recharged by induction — using magnetic fields — without the need for cables or human intervention, allowing it to be self-sufficient and run 24 hours a day.

The technology
Navia uses two different types of technologies for location.

The first is GPS technologies and sensors that detect the vehicle's acceleration (accelerometers) and its rotation (gyroscopes) around all three axes (to and fro, side to side, up and down), enabling it to instantly calculate its position, route, and distance traveled since the last known position.

The second technology is four laser-based LIDAR units (LIght Detection And Ranging) with a 200-yard range that sweep the area ahead and provide a precise reading of the space around it, accurate to one centimeter. From this data the system generates a map of the immediate surroundings which it uses to steer the vehicle's course. Obstacles are detected by combining the LIDAR information with a system of optical cameras that give stereo vision in the same way as a person's two eyes.

Here is the Navia laser view in the following video.

Cost to run and testing
The company claims that the average cost of running a regular shuttle service with driver in the United States is $200,000 per year.

The vehicle has already been deployed with partnerships in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Singapore, and is said to navigate streets congested with pedestrians easily and safely without the use of a rail or designated path.

The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne campus has been using the shuttle for about a year now and is very pleased with its operation and efficiency. Other users are British company Oxis Energy, a pioneer in lithium sulfur polymer technology; the Culham Science Centre, a high-security industry park run by the United Kingdom Atomic energy Authority; and Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

For more information on Navia, visit the Induct website.

This article originally appeared in EBN's sister publication EDN .

16 comments on “CES: Induct Claims 1st Fully Electric, Self-Driving Shuttle in US

  1. t.alex
    January 11, 2014

    With Tesla and others selling electric cars, now is the time to differentiate among these vehicles. How safe is it standing in such autonomous vehicles?

  2. ic78man08
    January 11, 2014

    @talex—While riding in the vehicle at 12 mph, I could barely detect movement. 12 mph is just three times as fast as walking (3 mph) and when stopping and starting, there is a gentle ramp up and down.

    You do have a point though and I am sure that tether belts can be installed if the customer wants them. Since Induct is licensing the technology, the customer can add whatever they deem necessary.

    Just remember that when standing on a bus or train moving at far faster than 12 mph there are no restraints other than a hand hold

  3. t.alex
    January 13, 2014

    script78man, you are right. At such speed, it is pretty safe.

  4. Eldredge
    January 14, 2014

    This company was the only European company invited to participate in the DARPA Grand Challenge race for autonomous vehicles in the Mojave Desert.


    Did they participate in the DARPA chanllenge, or is this a future event? How did/wil they fare in the competition?

     

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    January 16, 2014

    @t.alex, i'm not sure about the standing part, but it's begining to look as if self-driving cars are MORE safe than those with human drivers (since these machines don't get distracted perhaps). Here's an interesting look at that: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/520746/data-shows-googles-robot-cars-are-smoother-safer-drivers-than-you-or-i/

    The article said:

    “One of those analyses showed that when a human was behind the wheel, Google's cars accelerated and braked significantly more sharply than they did when piloting themselves. Another showed that the cars' software was much better at maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead than the human drivers were.”

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    January 16, 2014

    @Script78man, you make a good point–this is an issue of public transportation generally more than a concern about self driving vehicles. It would be a double boon if, for example, there were safety mechanisms and the self-driving vehicles were also safer than having human drivers.

  7. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    January 16, 2014

    @Eldredge, this event happened in the past. From Wikapedia:

    The DARPA Grand Challenge is a prize competition for American autonomous vehicles, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the most prominent research organization of the United States Department of Defense. Congress has authorized DARPA to award cash prizes to further DARPA's mission to sponsor revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and military use. The initial DARPA Grand Challenge was created to spur the development of technologies needed to create the first fully autonomous ground vehicles capable of completing a substantial off-road course within a limited time. The third event, the DARPA Urban Challenge extended the initial Challenge to autonomous operation in a mock urban environment. The most recent Challenge, the 2012 DARPA Robotics Challenge, will focus on autonomous emergency-maintenance robots.

     

    DARPA regularly comes up with new challenges, though. I believe the most recent one is about robotics.

  8. prabhakar_deosthali
    January 16, 2014

    On the feature of the route and stop selection by the passengers, I am just wondering how the conflict stituations will be resolved- like when some passenger tries to change the direction of the vehicle – or something like that.

  9. Eldredge
    January 16, 2014

    @prabhakar – Not sure how they addreess that problem either. Maybe they use dedicated routes (could have a choice of more than one) with pre-determined stops you can choose from. Couold be other ways to handle it too.

  10. Daniel
    January 16, 2014

    “The vehicle is recharged by induction — using magnetic fields — without the need for cables or human intervention, allowing it to be self-sufficient and run 24 hours a day.”

    Steve, can you elaborate little bit about this charging technology. Is the road is equipped with some electric or magnetic strips for charging the moving vehicle.

  11. Daniel
    January 16, 2014

    “On the feature of the route and stop selection by the passengers, I am just wondering how the conflict stituations will be resolved- like when some passenger tries to change the direction of the vehicle – or something like that.”

    Prabhakar, shuttle service means through pre defined routs and hence there is no conflict. Otherwise also, it can mention only the stops in that particular root.

  12. ic78man08
    January 16, 2014

    Hi Jacob,

    Navia's propulsion system uses Lithium-Polymer batteries and a 15″ instant wireless recharging system that gives the shuttle a boost of juice at each stop.

    Here is Qualcomm's wireless charging system information link http://inhabitat.com/qualcomm-announces-plans-to-test-new-wireless-ev-charging-technology-in-london/

  13. Daniel
    January 19, 2014

    “Navia's propulsion system uses Lithium-Polymer batteries and a 15″ instant wireless recharging system that gives the shuttle a boost of juice at each stop.”

    Scipt78man, such wifi recharge can be happen for short while, when the vehicle is at the station. Is it sufficient to pull the vehicle to next stop?

  14. ic78man08
    January 19, 2014

    Hello Jacob,

    When the vehicle arrives at the station, passengers need to disembark and possibly other passengers need to board. In this relatively short time, the charging is only “topping off” the battery level. If the vehicle does this at each stop, it keeps the battery from needing a full re-charge for a longer time. The battery will not typically discharge too much from stop to stop within a neighborhood region or small city. It's an electric vehicle in operation.

     

  15. Daniel
    January 20, 2014

    “In this relatively short time, the charging is only “topping off” the battery level. If the vehicle does this at each stop, it keeps the battery from needing a full re-charge for a longer time. The battery will not typically discharge too much from stop to stop within a neighborhood region or small city. It's an electric vehicle in operation.”

    Scipt78man, am not sure how far it's practically feasible. The power required for moving the vehicle from one station to other can be get recharged through this wifi contacts; then its fine.

  16. t.alex
    January 23, 2014

    Hailey, this is a good point. I am wondering if, in a perfect scenario, all the cars in the street are driving themselves instead of being controlled by human, will they all be able to achieve the best efficiency of speed and lowest rate of accident?

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