Robotic Research LLC today announced that it will begin testing fully autonomous low-speed shuttles in the second quarter of 2020. Unlike some other companies that are testing self-driving cars, Robotic Research said it plans to test without attendants on board.
Clarksburg, Md.-based Robotic Research provides robotics and autonomy software and systems for military and commercial transportation uses.
“Through our work with the U.S. government over the past four years, we have already demonstrated that fully autonomous trucks are a reality,” stated Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “We are committed to making our shuttle and bus manufacturing partners successful by accelerating state-of-the-art technologies for unmanned vehicles ahead of regulatory agencies’ progress.”
Robotic Research draws from a decade of development experience
Robotic Research said it has been developing and testing unmanned, autonomous operations for a wide range of vehicles for nearly a decade. The company currently provides kits to fully automate logistics convoys for the U.S. government and several of its allied nation partners.
Nearly 100 trucks have already been delivered so far. The tests for these vehicles have included operations with no safety attendants on board and with a single operator monitoring three unmanned vehicles.
Robotic Research said its AutoDrive autonomy kit is platform-agnostic and can be retrofitted to systems of all sizes, from small, portable robots to large trucks and buses. The system is designed to drive vehicles on surfaces ranging from urban roads to off-road terrain. It also collects and analyzes data to improve the functionality of autonomous transportation.
Robotic Research takes drivers out of the cab
Robotic Research said it plans to test its shuttles with personnel monitoring them in fixed on-site locations. Its goal is to eventually move them to an offsite safety monitoring facility.
“The level of safety certification and redundancy necessary to drive fully autonomous vehicles is a significant undertaking that needs to be designed from the top down.” he said. “Just adding more ADAS [advanced driver-assistance systems] is not a reasonable or cost-effective pathway to full autonomy. The advancements driven by the Robotic Research team will provide a product that significantly reduces the cost of operation and therefore improves market size.”
Satisfying customer demands, regulatory requirements
The AutoDrive kit from Robotic Research is operating in communities and cities around the globe, including 30 states and four continents. It provides automation to Local Motors, one of the largest international shuttle providers, as well as to New Flyer of America Inc., the largest U.S. manufacturer of commercial buses.
Current local, state, and federal regulations for most commercial shuttle operations require the safety attendant to be inside the cab of the vehicle. However, many transit operators are seeking to change these regulations to allow remote attendants to oversee system safety operations, according to Robotic Research.
The change is integral to the viability of low-speed shuttles, which the company said are an innovative solution to the first/last-mile problem, referring to the distance between a traveler’s origin or destination and a transit station or stop.
Other autonomous vehicle news
Starsky Robotics, which had been developing driverless trucks and had raised more than $20 million, including a Series A round in March 2018, has laid off most of its staff, reported FreightWaves. The company failed to find a buyer.
The Nuro R2 driverless delivery vehicle received an exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation, but proponents of federal safe-driving laws face obstacles including insurance concerns. It remains to be seen if developers, regulators, and other stakeholders can get laws and technologies into a “seamless integrated mobility system,” as recommended by the World Economic Forum.
In happier news, Cruise joined Aurora, AutoX, Pony.ai, Waymo, and Zoox in being allowed to test transport of passengers in its robotaxis in California, noted TechCrunch. Cruise, the autonomous vehicle unit of General Motors, announced its Origin driverless shuttle last month.