Autonomous buses, trucks, race cars and the future of self-driving transportation
When your car is capable of level 4 autonomous self-driving, you can text without worry. For now, the text will have to wait.
The future of road transportation is going to though a big upgrade as humans get lazier and smarter. There are companies around the world currently working on self-driving trucks and buses and other ride share vehicles that are going to change the way we view public transportation.
Below are a few cool examples of the self-driving, autonomous vehicle revolution. Enjoy!
Autonomous bus system for public transit
The largest bus manufacturer in North America, New Flyer of America Inc. has partnered with Robotic Research LLC to bring autonomous bus technology to cities across the United States. The partnership is deploying Level 4 Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) to produce platforms like the Xcelsior CHARGE battery-powered bus.
Autonomous Ride-share vehicles
Self-driving startup Optimus Ride will become the first to operate a commercial ride share platform in the state of New York. The vehicles called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) will have 6 seats and is planned to operate within a 300-acre private development called the Brooklyn Navy Yard and is free to users. The shuttles have also been spotted operating across other parts of the US including Boston, Virginia, California and Massachusetts. Currently the deployment of these vehicles is limited but we're sure we will see increasing use in the near future in other US cities.
Worlds first all-weather self-driving bus
In Finland, they have a vehicle called “The Gatcha” which is expected to roll out in 2020. This is the worlds first autonomous all-weather bus and is produced by Sensible 4 in conjunction with Japanese retailer Muji. The Gatcha is capable of speeds of 25 miles per hour and has a range of about 62 miles. The bus has no front or back and boasts a minimalist design with its small wheels. It can operate in fog, rain, snow and any other condition you throw at it. Pretty neat and cute!
Volvo self-driving buses and big rigs
The legendary Scandinavian company Volvo has chosen NVIDIA to partner and develop their self-driving trucks and buses. Like Toyota who also partnered with NVIDIA, Volvo is looking to leverage NVIDIA's self-driving technology and will share work spaces in Gothenburg and Santa Clara to work closely in developing these autonomous trucks and buses.
Why NVIDIA? Well quite frankly, they are considered giants in computer vision, AI and data centers these days.
NVIDIA has leveraged their know-how in graphic processing technology to build powerful AI-powered self-driving technology. See video below for autonomous race cars powered by NVIDIA. Yes...fast...race..cars...
Hot Wheels anyone??? Actually Hot Wheels does have a model car that is based of the Roborace Robocar. We like to digress but that's OK because there's so much cool stuff in the world!
Tesla truck spotted hauling concrete blocks
Our friends at Tesla have done it again and they have been spotted testing their trucks around Los Angeles.
Chinese 5G bus
In the Chinese city of Zhenzhou, the bus manufacturer Yutong Bus has dispatched four Level 4 autonomous buses to drive along a 1.54 km route around the city. The buses are called Xiaoyu can travel up to 20 km/h and has a range of 200 km with the air conditioning on. Two staffers are on board to push on the emergency brake pedal for safety purposes. Yutong Bus has also developed a cloud-based platform to connect the buses via 5G technology to the smart city central nervous system which monitors the bus routes and road conditions.
Types of levels
We keep hearing about level 4 autonomous vehicles. What does level 4 mean? What is level 3? Here is a quick explanation for the 6 levels of vehicle autonomy.
Level 0 – Most vehicles on the road is level 0 which require total human control to operate.
Level 1 – Driver Assistance or the lowest level of automation. Vehicles equipped with cruise control or a single automated system to assist the driver is considered level 1.
Level 2 – Partial Driving Automation or is equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). Tesla Autopilot and GM (general motors) Super Cruise System are level 2.
Level 3 – Conditional Driving Automation. Level 2 to level 3 is a big jump. At level 3, the vehicle can be programmed to be autonomous in specific conditions. Level 3 vehicles have environmental detection systems such as LIDAR (light Detection and Ranging) and can make informed decisions by themselves.
Level 4 – High Automation. These vehicles do not require human intervention in most situations. These vehicles are also only allowed to operate within a certain area or through Geofencing.
Level 5- Full automation. This is the next level and these vehicles do not require human intervention. Level 5 vehicles won’t have steering columns or brake pedals and can operate anywhere. These level 5 vehicles are currently being developed but we are still years away.
Loadsmart and Starsky Robotics have just accomplished a start-to-finish unmanned truck delivery! This is a historic moment and provides a glimpse into the future of automated trucking brokerages proving loads to autonomous trucks and hauling our goods half way across the country.
By the way Loadsmart allows you to easily book a truck to haul your business goods or classmates.
Starsky Robotics used a class 8 Volvo Sleeper Berth Tractor Trailer and traveled at an average speed of 55 mph for 9.4 miles on a highway in Florida.
Its not much but we can certainly say, one small highway drive for Starsky, one giant drive for mankind.
The truck was being remotely controlled by a human driver located about 200 miles from the test route. The remote driver drove the truck on to the highway and set the autopilot at 55 mph once on the highway. The driver took over again to steer the truck off the highway and into park.
Just like the autopilot system on aircraft, the pilot is in-charge of take off, landing and maneuvering around busy airports while waiting to land.
Congratulations to the Starsky Robotics and Loadsmart team for making autonomous trucking a reality or at least bringing us much closer to it. Their goal is to have trucks operate autonomously on highways but also let the human operate the vehicle in congested and tricky traffic. Humans are still much much better at operating trucks and handling the small nuances of driving and decision making that comes from complicated situations.
Add this to our list of achievements as a human species inching slowly towards the goal of having humans concentrate on tasks and activities that make us human - by leveraging technology and robotics.
UPS Self Driving Trucks
UPS has already been making headway in the self-driving truck game. They have been operating a few trucks on the Tucson-Phoenix, Dallas, Texas distribution centers route for the last 3 months. The trucks have an on board driver and engineer to monitor the systems and keep everything in check. UPS venture capital arm has been investing in the technology through TuSimple which is backed by NVIDIA and Chinese company SINA. The technology outfits the Navistar trucks with a couple of LIDAR sensors and 9 cameras.
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