I rode in a self-driving shuttle in Times Square — and it showed what the early years of fully-autonomous vehicles might look like

coast autonomous

  • The autonomous driving startup Coast Autonomous demonstrated a self-driving shuttle, the Coast P-1, in Times Square.
  • The Coast P-1 has a maximum speed of 25 mph and can either drive on a predetermined route or be hailed by an app.
  • The demo was very limited, so I wasn’t able to get a comprehensive sense of how Coast’s technology worked. 
  • But by using conservative, low-speed vehicles and limiting where they can travel, Coast has decreased the number of challenges its technology has to address.

When people talk about autonomous driving, they tend to focus on passenger vehicles. But some of the first commercial applications of autonomous technology may occur in a less glamorous context: low-speed shuttles.

The biggest challenge for companies developing self-driving vehicles is to prepare them to make safe, split-second decisions in unfamiliar situations. A shuttle that drives within a limited environment at low speeds will face less uncertainty, and lower stakes if something goes wrong, than the average passenger vehicle. 

That’s the philosophy behind Coast Autonomous, a startup that makes autonomous driving software for low-speed vehicles that operate in controlled environments like airports, campuses, and resorts. The technology can also work in cities if the vehicle is driving in slow-moving traffic or has a dedicated lane.

While major auto and tech companies like Alphabet’s Waymo, General Motors’ Cruise, and Uber have to answer the tricky question of when to make their vehicles stop for an obstacle in the road (stop too often and the passenger will become impatient, stop too infrequently and you increase the potential for a collision), Coast’s technology will err on the safe side, stopping for any kind of obstacle it senses before deciding if it should proceed, the company said on its website.

The company says it has demonstrated its technology over 60 times for over 120,000 passengers since 2012, and on July 17, Coast Autonomous brought its Coast P-1 shuttle to Times Square, for what it said was the first instance of an autonomous shuttle operating in Manhattan. 

Here’s what it was like to ride the company’s shuttle.

The Coast P-1 is a prototype the company unveiled in 2017.

It has a maximum speed of 25 mph, a maximum 10 hours of range (it drops to five hours if air-conditioning is turned on), and the ability to charge wirelessly.

The shuttle has no steering wheel or pedals.

It can seat 14 passengers on its semi-circular bench and has room for six additional passengers if they stand. Passengers can see the shuttle’s route and estimated time of arrival at upcoming stops on a screen above them.

The Coast P-1 can either travel to predetermined stops or be hailed by users through an app.

When demand is high, the vehicle can travel on a set route. But during periods of low demand, passengers can have the shuttle pick them up and drop them off at their chosen destination.

Pierre Lefevre, Coast’s CTO, said it has developed a fleet management system to make sure the shuttle isn’t stopping too frequently. For example, if multiple people who are close to each other hail the shuttle, it will find a place to stop between them.

Lefevre said in dense urban environments, like New York City, passengers will board the Coast P-1 at predetermined stops and choose which stop they want to exit at on an iPad inside the vehicle.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Read the full article from it’s original source: http://uk.businessinsider.com/what-its-like-to-ride-in-a-self-driving-shuttle-2018-7

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