Yanks test self-drive e-bus
Proterra pilot programme in Nevada to advance recognition of intent by robotic perceptors
ROBOT buses are being tested in Nevada before they start operating on their own in cities across the U.S.
While several companies are betting future public transport will see more midibus taxis trundling around without a driver, Proterra is betting the buses will be bigger.
In Arizona, Local Motors is one of the companies betting on smaller buses, having last year introduced a small, 12-seater electric bus called Olli.
This 3D-printed, autonomous, electric shuttle is also partially recyclable and links with IBM’s “Watson” software to recognise and interact with passengers.
Electric bus manufacturer Proterra intends to go bigger and has introduced what it calls the industry’s first autonomous bus programme, working with the University of Nevada, Reno and its Living Lab Coalition partners.
Proterra’s buses won’t be the first large vehicles driving on their own along America’s highways and suburban streets.
The Daimler group is already testing super-link trucks in the U.S., while Volvo and Scania did so in Europe. Down Under in Oz, Komatsu have long proven the cost effectiveness of removing the nut that holds the steering wheel in giant robot mining trucks. With other electric bus builders, like BYD from China, not divulging news on autonomous tests, Proterra is the first with a programme to help prove robot buses are safe. Unlike other programmes to date, this autonomous vehicle pilot will deal with real road conditions from the perspective of public transit systems, and emphasise the most challenging aspects related to mass transportation, which include dense and dynamic environments, degraded conditions, and a need for swift emergency response. Proterra said in a statement the pilot will also explore a new set of robotic perception algorithms that are required to address these conditions, and focus on tight cues from multimodal sensors and new multimodal localisation and mapping.
Rather than solely detect traffic, the Living Lab will focus on predicting traffic flows and plans to enhance safety. The university’s current work focuses on the problems of vehicle perception, navigation control, path planning and vehicle-to-vehicle as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure research.
“Autonomy is key for safety, efficiency and reliable transportation systems at scale. Our shared vision is to have robust, longterm autonomy to enable safer modes of transit,” said Carlos Cardillo, PhD director of the Nevada Centre for Applied Research at the University of Nevada, Reno. “The pilot will research and develop a robust set of algorithms for localisation and mapping, object detection in the domains of multi-modal fusion and recognition of intent to ultimately advance robotic perception and move systems closer to our simultaneous goal of enhancing safety. The project involves university researchers in advanced autonomous systems, computer sciences, synchronised mobility, robotics and civil engineering.”
The pilot is supported by the Knowledge Fund, an innovative funding mechanism developed by the State of Nevada to spur research, knowledge-intensive and innovation-driven economic development, and Research & Innovation at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra, said the pilot was the first of such projects to advance mobility solutions that best meet people’s evolving needs as more communities take steps to integrate autonomous vehicles.
Electric bus manufacturer Proterra is testing a robot bus programmme.