Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, French company Navya launched a driverless electric shuttle called Arma in downtown Las Vegas. The initiative is a pilot and only runs for a few city blocks, but it breaks new ground. This is the first time autonomous public transport officially operated on a public road in the US.
Navya's Arma project does have a track record: it was deployed in France in late 2015, and the vehicles have already transported more than 100,000 people. There are now 30 Arma shuttles in use in seven countries worldwide including Australia, France, Singapore and the US.
The 10-day pilot programme offers free albeit short rides along the iconic Fremont Street entertainment district in Las Vegas. Arma can attain speeds of 30 miles per hour, but during this test period it will be limited to 16 miles per hour.
Although the shuttle is filled with sensors and advanced algorithms to detect and avoid obstacles, it also has an emergency button that passengers can operate to stop the vehicle. The most notable safety feature, however, is the inclusion of a staffer on board to monitor progress.
This driverless shuttle in Las Vegas is one of a series of recent developments in autonomous public transport (for example, see Meet Olli, the Autonomous Shuttle Bus). CCS Insight believes that, although not quite at critical mass, self-driving vehicles are being put through their paces and the main technology enablers are now available to make this a real market.
To be clear, this is still in the alpha-test stage but it's rapidly approaching reality. We believe the real obstacle will be less about the technology and more about user trust as well challenges deriving from regulation. Nonetheless, there's enough market force to overcome most of the obstacles including major industry players such as Ford, Tesla and Uber.