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Las Vegas Pilots Autonomous Shuttles Provided by French Startup Navya

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【Summary】It is crucial to point out that ARMA is a rare breed of fully autonomous, SAE L5 vessels, making it the first production vehicle to come equipped with “the highest possible level of autonomy” (according to translated statements on the company’s website).

Original Michael Cheng    Jan 18, 2017 6:26 AM PT
Las Vegas Pilots Autonomous Shuttles Provided by French Startup Navya

The Consumer Electronic Show (CES 2017) ended earlier this month on a high note. Several automakers, tech giants and startups displayed a new wave of products for the driverless community. Not to be left out, Navya, a Paris-based startup that specializes in self-driving platforms for commercial transportation, announced the launching of a unique pilot program that incorporates its iconic autonomous shuttle – ARMA.  

It is crucial to point out that ARMA is a rare breed of fully autonomous, SAE L5 vessels, making it the first production vehicle to come equipped with "the highest possible level of autonomy" (according to translated statements on the company's website). The trial in Las Vegas started on the 11th of January and will continue for two weeks.

"Being the control freak that I am, I was very nervous to get on this vehicle, but it is clean, has beautiful air and moves sort of swiftly but so beautifully down Fremont East," Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told Las Vegas Sun during an interview.

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Free Autonomous Rides

ARMA will be shuttling passengers across Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street. The service is free for those who are interested in the technology with operation hours from 10AM to 6PM. Inside, the vessel is capable of holding up to 12 passengers. For now, developers capped the top speed of the transportation pod at 12 mph – almost half of its top speed outside of the trial at 27 mph. This may not seem fast, but it is also important to consider that the vessel is not designed for private use. Like the Masdar City Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system (located between Abu Dhabi International Airport and the suburbs of Emirati), the service is programmed to continuously operate on a single path.

Navya is aiming to launch an entire fleet of ARMA shuttles later this year in the city with a hefty price tag of $10,000 per vessel – per month. To ease such barrier-to-entry factors (i.e., overwhelming costs of scaling its self-driving technology for mass markets), the company plans to incorporate an advertising service that plasters electronic ads on the driverless pod. Goodman confirmed that the main goal is to make ARMA rides free for local residents.

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ARMA Technology

In addition to being fully autonomous, an iconic accomplishment that today's automakers are still struggling with, ARMA shuttles are also fully electric. Under the hood, the unit is powered by induction rechargeable batteries with a five to 13-hour cycle. Powering its self-driving platform are next-generation LIDAR sensors, GPS RTK, an odometer and a set of stereovision cameras. The company claims its technology does not need robust city infrastructure (or a driver) for support during operation. To date, Navya has raised over $38.02 million across three successful funding rounds from eight investors. During its latest Series B financing round (the business raised $34 million), the startup reportedly received a jaw-dropping estimated $222 million valuation.

"Achieving faster critical volumes will reduce investments from cities and companies who wish to equip themselves with intelligent and autonomous mobility solutions and thus accelerate the growth of our company," explained Christophe Sapet, the startup's chairman.

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