New York City’s first driverless shuttle has arrived.
In Times Square, a self-driving P-1 shuttle from COAST Autonomous was demonstrated July 17 along an approximately 150-yard course.
“It’s historic,” said Pierre Lefevre, inventor of the first low speed autonomous shuttle and COAST’s CTO. “The very first driverless vehicle to operate in New York’s Times Square. This represents an evolutionary moment in urban transportation.”
COAST sees densely populated urban centers as ideally suited to low-speed, autonomous shuttles, as they have the potential to reduce traffic volume and noise, pollution and parked vehicles in favor of pedestrian walkways and green spaces, according to a COAST press release.
“I’m confident that self-driving shuttles will fundamentally enhance the quality of life in cities,” Lefevre said in the release. “They will allow for more developments, exactly like the Broadway pedestrian plaza here at Times Square, that give the city back to the people. They will also improve the way individuals travel around cities. Imagine what it was like when New Yorkers saw the first subway demonstrated in Manhattan – this is similarly significant.”
The COAST P-1 shuttle is a bi-directional, self-driving vehicle that is designed to operate in pedestrian areas or in low-speed mixed traffic up to 20mph. The P-1 can travel at higher speeds on a dedicated lane.
With no pedals or steering wheel, the vehicle operates on a network of predefined routes and can also be called using a smartphone app. Electric wheel hub motors provide a smooth ride and allow for a larger floor plan within the vehicle as there are no axels. The vehicle accommodates eight seated and four standing, but with fewer seats, and could carry up to 20 passengers. The P-1 chassis can also be configured as a delivery vehicle.
In addition to cities, other environments that COAST believes could be ideally suited to driverless shuttles like the P-1 include college campuses, airports, business parks, vacation resorts and theme parks, according to the release.
“We are convinced that the deployment of driverless vehicles in low speed environments, like our P-1 shuttle and autonomous golf cart, are much closer to commercialization than self-driving vehicles designed to travel at highway speeds,” explained COAST Managing Director Adrian Sussmann. “This is mainly because operating at low speeds is much safer, requires less sensors and is therefore much more cost effective. We are already seeing significant interest and expect to deploy our first fleets in 2019.”
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