Self-propelled shuttles have arrived in New York City: Optimus Ride starts tasting for the Brooklyn Navy Yard and NYC Ferry loop
- Self-driving cars are driving on the street in New York for the first time
- Cars will transport employees on the Brooklyn Navy Yard to select locations
- The journeys are free and are accompanied by two safety officers
- The Optimus Ride test is the most comprehensive ever conducted in New York
The self-driving vehicle company Optimus Ride has launched a fleet of autonomous shuttles at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City for what has become the city’s biggest self-driving technology test to date.
According to the company, the six self-driving cars will only serve passengers on the private roads of the Navy Yards via a shuttle service that connects NYC Ferry passengers from dock 72 to a gate next to Flushing Avenue.
Vehicles will run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and are accompanied by two safety officers – one on the driver’s seat to intervene if necessary and another on the passenger seat that records the performance of the vehicle.
For the time being the rides are according to The edge, because Optimus received $ 18 million in the first financing round and has a contract with the Navy Yard for an undisclosed amount.
Certain commuters in New York City will have the opportunity to pioneer a fleet of autonomous vehicles that served this month on the Navy Navy Yard
Optimus says it expects to serve 500 passengers a day and to cater to the approximately 10,000 employees who are based there.
The pilot program was announced this year and reflects a similar program from the company taking place in Paradise Valley Estates, a senior community in Fairfield, California.
The introduction of Optimus fully autonomous vehicles is one of the first commercial self-driving cars in the state of New York.
Other tests include one by the German car manufacturer, Audi and Cadillac – both of which ran smoothly, but only lasted one ride.
Apart from those limited exercises, however, New York is devoid of more intensive autonomous testing in other cities such as Las Vegas, where Lyft recently completed ride number 50,000 using technology powered by Aptiv.
Tests in New York have been slow, partly because of laws that determine where and when they can take place. All tests of autonomous vehicles, for example, must be authorized by the Ministry of Motor Vehicles before they are performed.
Optimus, however, was able to circumvent this provision because the Brooklyn Navy Yard – a 300-hectare walled-in industrial area – is on private land.
“The launch of our self-driving vehicle system in New York on the Brooklyn Navy Yard is another confirmation that the Optimus Ride system is not only a safe, efficient means of transport, but also that autonomous vehicles can solve real problems in structured environments – today” , said Ryan Chin, CEO and co-founder of Optimus Ride in a statement.
Interest in the use of autonomous vehicles has increased enormously in recent years as technology progresses and attracts large, technical giants such as Google and companies that share journeys such as Uber and Lyft.
For cities that are struggling with traffic and public transport problems, autonomous vehicles offer an alternative that could alleviate problems.
Tests from those companies have been rolled out to different levels of success.
In 2016, a pedestrian was killed when a Uber self-driving car did not stop before he hit a woman walking in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Shortly thereafter the company pulled its autonomous vehicles off the road and only brought them back in December last year.
For Optimus, the announcement of its test implementations in New York and California will add a growing number of previously announced test cities.
In February, the company said it will mate with commercial and residential real estate company, Brookfield Properties, to serve customers at one of its developments in Washington D.C.
HOW ‘SEE’ SELF-RIDING CARS?
Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensitive ‘LiDAR’ units to recognize the world around them.
Others, however, use cameras with visible light that capture images of the roads and streets.
They are trained with a wealth of information and extensive databases of hundreds of thousands of clips that are processed using artificial intelligence to accurately identify people, signs and dangers.
With LiDAR scanning (light detection and range) – used by Waymo – one or more lasers send short pulses that spring back when they hit an obstacle.
These sensors constantly scan the surrounding areas for information and work like the ‘eyes’ of the car.
Although the units provide in-depth information, their low resolution makes it difficult to detect small, distant objects without the help of a normal camera attached to it in real time.
In November last year, Apple revealed details of its driverless car system that uses lasers to remotely detect pedestrians and cyclists.
The Apple researchers said they could achieve “very encouraging results” when spotting pedestrians and cyclists with only LiDAR data.
They also wrote that they could defeat other approaches to detecting three-dimensional objects that only use LiDAR.
Other self-driving cars usually rely on a combination of cameras, sensors and lasers.
An example is Volvo’s self-driving cars that depend on around 28 cameras, sensors and lasers.
A network of computers processes information, which together with GPS generates a real-time map of moving and stationary objects in the area.
Twelve ultrasonic sensors around the car are used to identify objects close to the vehicle and support autonomous driving at low speeds.
A wave radar and camera on the windscreen reads traffic signs and the curvature of the road and can detect objects on the road, such as other road users.
Four radars behind the front and rear bumpers also locate objects.
Two long-distance radars on the bumper are used to detect fast-moving vehicles approaching from a distance, which is useful on highways.
Four cameras – two on the exterior mirrors, one on the grille and one on the rear bumper – monitor objects in the vicinity of the vehicle and the lane markings.