Optimus Ride, a self-driving vehicle technology startup that spun out of MIT in 2015, will use Velodyne‘s lidar sensors in its entire fleet. Optimus Ride is currently testing its vehicles in Massachusetts and New York, and it will soon be testing in California and Virginia.
Optimus Ride’s all-electric shuttles move at slow speeds, maxing out at 25 MPH. Using three lidar sensors (two in the front, one in back) and eight cameras, Optimus Ride can in real time detect people and objects around its vehicles, as well as calculate the speed and trajectory of those objects. With that information, the vehicle’s on-board computer system determines how to drive to its destination.
“Velodyne’s sensors provide powerful lidar solutions that help us ensure our self-driving vehicles are the smartest and safest on the road today,” said Ryan Chin, Optimus Ride’s CEO and co-founder. “For Optimus Ride to operate a fleet at SAE Level 4 requires significant sophistication, intelligence, range and resolution. Velodyne’s technology meets these high standards.”
Optimus Ride operates self-driving vehicles that provide passenger transportation at low speeds within defined, geofenced areas such as planned communities, campuses and self-driving zones in cities. Optimus Ride raffled off autonomous shuttle rides at the Robotics Summit & Expo 2019, which is produced by The Robot Report.
Optimus Ride self-driving tests
The company’s vehicles are currently deployed in Boston’s Seaport District, South Weymouth, Mass. and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York. Optimus Ride will soon deploy at Paradise Valley Estates in Fairfield, Calif. and Brookfield Properties’ Halley Rise development in Reston, Va.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard is a 300-acre shipyard and industrial complex that has more than 400 manufacturing businesses and 10,000 employees onsite. Six Optimus Ride driverless shuttles are now transporting passengers inside a 1-mile area between the NYC Ferry stop at Dock 72 and the Yard’s Cumberland Gate at Flushing Avenue. Optimus Ride said the service, which is free and runs seven days a week, is expected to transport some 500 passengers daily.
“The Optimus Ride fleet showcases how Velodyne’s intelligent lidar sensors are helping companies place autonomous vehicles on the road today,” said Mike Jellen, President and CCO, Velodyne Lidar. “Optimus Ride has an ingenious approach to providing people with access to efficient and convenient self-driving mobility – effectively solving the first-and last-mile problem.”
Optimus Ride raised an $18 million Series A round in November 2017 that was led by Greycroft Partners. Other participating investors included Emerson Collective, Fraser McCombs Capital, and MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito. Then in April 2019 it raised another $20.7 million in a prospective $60 million round.
Velodyne sues Chinese rivals
Velodyne, the world’s largest lidar developer, recently filed patent infringement complaints against Chinese companies Hesai and Suteng (also known as RoboSense). Velodyne said the companies have “threatened Velodyne and its business” by copying its lidar technology. Velodyne said Hesai and Robosense have been selling products that infringe on multiple aspects of US Patent No. 7,969,558, which covers a “High Definition Lidar System” and was awarded to Velodyne founder David Hall in 2011.
Both claims allege the Chinese companies inspected and performed a tear-down of Velodyne’s products. Velodyne alleges “Robosense knew of and studied Velodyne’s products and patented technology before it incorporated that technology into its own products, as its personnel admitted in public interviews. Foreign counterparts of the ‘558 patent were also cited in a Robosense foreign patent application (CN105824029A).”
Velodyne also sells lidar sensors to other industries, including drones and mobile robots. Velodyne recently introduced the Puck 32MR lidar sensor for low-speed autonomy applications. In addition to featuring Velodyne’s patented surround-view perception capability, the new sensor boasts a range of 120 meters and a 40-degree vertical field of view to enable navigation in unfamiliar and dynamic settings.