Beep, Local Motors Partner on AV Shuttles
Niche applications. That’s how autonomous vehicles will start.
This includes last-mile/first-mile services to help workers, students and others bridge multiple modes of transportation for the final leg of their journey. That’s the idea behind a new partnership between Local Motors and Beep, a Florida-based mobility service operator.
Local Motors will supply its Olli 2.0 self-driving shuttles to operate in geo-fenced campus-type applications.
Olli 2.0 (Image: Local Motors)
The companies expect to deploy hundreds of the vehicles in Canada and the U.S. in coming years, starting with the first application early next month at an unspecified location. Local Motors’ 3D-printed, electric shuttles use Clarksburg, Md.-based Robotic Research’s autonomous vehicle technology.
Building on Experience
Both companies already operate their own pilot programs.
Local Motors, which has been testing its vehicles for several years, currently operates Ollie at five universities, business parks and other campus settings in the U.S., Italy and Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, the company continues to make progress with its 3D printing technology. In the past five years, Local Motors has gone from producing 30% of the body of the first-generation Olli via additive manufacturing to 70% with Olli 2.0. Part counts and manual production hours were both cut in half, according to the company.
Beep has formed partnerships with several transit agencies and private development groups in Florida, including an initiative to transport COVID-10 supplies at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Beep also runs an autonomous shuttle service in Peoria, Az. These programs use electric shuttles supplied by France’s Navya Technologies.
The companies plan to bid on projects to "fill the gaps in existing transportation networks where other mobility providers have found it harder to move forward in the past," Beep CEO Joe Moye says.
This includes opportunities in Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Toronto, adds Vikrant Aggarwal, president of Local Motors. He notes potential applications in national park sites.
Local Motors and Beep also are members of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s AV TEST initiative announced last month. The new agreement will allow the companies to push for legislation to allow more vehicles without a federal classification to operate on public roads in the U.S. and Canada, according to Moye.
Under the NHTSA program, Local Motors and Beep are sharing testing data to help refine their services. Local Motors also aims to tap Beep’s experience in autonomous goods delivery.
But both companies realize progress will take time. One mile at a time.
While at the Tokyo Motor Show this week various vehicle manufacturers were showing off all manner of cars and crossovers and transportation devices that typically had to do with something autonomous, connected and/or electrified (ACE, as CAR’s Brett Smith categorizes this burgeoning field), the guys from Chevy were in El Segundo, California, showing off a different take on what can best be described as “toys for boys”—boys who do or don’t have driver’s licenses.
To know that 3,000 cars have been delivered since October 2015 would undoubtedly result in a shrug: in 2017 Toyota delivered 387,081 Camrys, so that 3,000 is less than one percent, and this is in one year, not just over two.
According to Frank Jourdan, president, Chassis & Safety Div., Continental Contitech AG (continental-corporation.com), the high-resolution 3D flash LIDAR (HFL) technology that the company is developing for deployment in automated driving systems in the 2020+ timeframe provides an array of benefits.