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A Look at Voyage Auto's First Ever Self-Driving Car, Almost Ready for the Road

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【Summary】Voyage Auto Inc., a Silicon Valley based start-up which hopes to launch an autonomous taxi service soon, is getting ready to begin testing its first autonomous car. The company’s lofty goal is to launch its service with zero reliance on a safety driver. Voyage Auto’s first ever self-driving test car is almost ready for the road.

Original Eric Walz    May 04, 2017 5:52 PM PT
A Look at Voyage Auto's First Ever Self-Driving Car, Almost Ready for the Road

By Eric Walz

Voyage Auto Inc., a Silicon Valley based start-up which hopes to launch an autonomous taxi service soon, is almost ready to begin testing its first autonomous car. The company's lofty goal is to launch an autonomous taxi service with zero reliance on a safety driver. The company is based in Los Altos, California.

In a Twitter post on Thursday, May 4th, the company's CEO Oliver Cameron posted a short video showing the progress they have made in completing their first ever test self-driving vehicle, which it nicknamed "Homer". The car is a Ford Fusion hybrid that has been outfitted with radar, LiDAR, five cameras, and other hardware for self-driving.

Voyage Auto had help from other suppliers to build its self-driving car. Voyage partnered with San Francisco based APROE, (Advanced Prototype Engineering LLC) which is a design and engineering firm specializing in the development of mechanical and mechatronic prototypes, to help outfit its Ford Fusion for self-driving. Aproe has also worked with Google in the past on undisclosed projects.

The car's setup involves installing a total of five radar units. In the front bumper there is a long range radar, which can see obstacles 200m ahead, even in weather conditions like dense fog and rain. It also has four short range radars installed on each corner of the car, primarily needed for intersections and other complex traffic navigation.

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The sensors on Voyage Auto's custom designed self-driving Ford Fusion

The company also installed a Velodyne HLD-64E roof mounted LiDAR to the vehicle. Velodyne supplied the LiDAR for Google first self-driving cars, and one of Apple's autonomous vehicle was recently spotted with the same model LiDAR mounted on the roof of its test vehicle, a Lexus RX450h.

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The Velodyne HLD-64E

These sensors give the car the ability to perceive and navigate the environment around it, much like a human can. Using very powerful sensors, a self-driving car can instantly see and react to dangers humans might never have the chance to.

Voyage Auto also installed a Dataspeed brand ADAS (advanced driver assist system) to control steering, accelerating, shifting, and braking. Dataspeed is a maker of a complete kit which forms the base for a self-driving development vehicle. This bundled technology allows car companies and automotive suppliers to create their own driverless car solutions and save time in the development process. Ford, as well as Faraday Future both used the Dataspeed ADAS for their autonomous development vehicles.

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The Dataspeed ADAS kit installed in a self-driving vehicle

The company is relying heavily on machine learning and deep learning, which it said is absolutely critical in accomplishing the goal of attaining level-5 autonomy, which refers to a fully-autonomous system equal that of a human driver, in every driving scenario. With it, they hope to offer the cheapest form of transportation on the planet, the company wrote.

The company's mission is posted on their website. "At Voyage we're building an extremely affordable autonomous taxi service. We believe that dependable, point-to-point, self-driving transportation will change a lot about how the world works for the better, and not just for Silicon Valley."

Voyage will join Google, Apple, Uber and many others competing and testing self-driving technology in the Silicon Valley area. It is interesting to note that along with Voyage, Uber also repurposed a Ford Fusion to build their first self-driving test vehicles.

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