Optimus Ride Looks to Ferry Passengers in Autonomous Vehicles in Massachusetts

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【Summary】Boston-based company Optimus Ride is looking to give passengers rides in driverless cars at an ex-Naval air base in Weymouth, Mass.

Original   Vineeth Joel Patel  ·  Dec 01, 2017 6:25 AM PT
author: Vineeth Joel Patel   

Autonomous companies are popping up all over the country, as everyone scrambles to get self-driving cars on the road to alleviate traffic, ferry passengers around in a safer manner, and provide individuals with a more convenient way of getting around. Optimus Ride, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spinoff company that recently raised $18 million during Series A funding is heading to Weymouth, Mass., which is located approximately 17 miles south of Boston, to ferry passengers around in one of its autonomous cars. 

Optimus Ride Meets Its Lofty Goal

As a quick refresher, Optimus Ride appeared on the scene earlier this May at the 2017 GPU Technology Convention in Silicon Valley, Calif. At the event, the company revealed that it was in the process of developing autonomous technologies for electric vehicles in the hopes of coming out with Level 4 self-driving machines. Sertac Karaman, co-founder, president, and chief scientist at Optimus Ride, claimed that the company's research was heavily involved in developing planning and control algorithms for driverless cars.  

While Optimus Ride's goal sound similar to other companies, the business brought something interesting to the event – the concept of "parallel autonomy." Parallel autonomy, according to the company, is a system that prevents the driver from controlling the vehicle in the presence of a hazard. The system, as Karaman refers to it as, is a "guardian angel autonomy." 

The system sounded ambitious and we starting to get worried after not hearing anything from the company for some time. But a report by the Boston Globe claims that Optimus Ride has plans to ferry passengers around a former Naval air base, which has been transformed into a sprawling development. The outlet claims that the company has reached a deal with the developer of Union Point in South Weymouth, Mass., that will see Optimus Race receive money to manage autonomous cars as a mode of transportation in the area. 

Starting Slow With Plans To Expand

According to the Boston Globe, the company is currently running tests on Union Point's roads, as Optimus Ride is utilizing two electronic machines that are capable of fitting between four to six passengers. The pilot program, though, is expected to start in 2018. 

"There will be all kinds of services we can provide," said Ryan China, Optimus Ride's cofounder. "Bringing people to the commuter rail, bringing people within the site. The site itself is growing quite quickly, with other new tenants coming in, some of whom are not just residential." 

As the outlet reports, Union Point has approximately 850 housing units that is home to about 2,000 residents. LStar, which is its developer, believes that there's a lot more to be had in the area, envisioning multiple mini-cities of housing, buildings, offices, and more. As the Boston Globe claims, LStar didn't provide any details behind its pact with Optimus Ride, but believes the partnership will be a long-term one. 

While the company is looking for a way to get passengers from one point to another in the near future, LStar also wants Optimus Ride to create other autonomous machines, like garbage trucks. "It's not an ornament," said Kyle Corkum, lead developer for Union Point. "It's central to our long-term goal of the electrification of our city, of providing mobility to everyone." 

If Optimus Ride gets its autonomous vehicles into gear quickly, it could, as the outlet reports, become the first company in the state to provide rides to passengers in autonomous vehicles. Being first, as we've found in the autonomous scene, means a lot, especially to a small company. 

via: Boston Globe

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