Two Boston-based autonomous vehicle companies are making moves to put more self-driving cars on the road.
Optimus Ride has partnered with electric vehicle maker Polaris Industries to begin making driverless electric minibuses. Polaris, a Minnesota company that invested in Optimus Ride last year, will integrate Optimus Ride’s technology into a new version of its GEM low-speed electric vehicles that are expected to come to market in 2023.
Optimus Ride already uses Polaris GEM vehicles to operate self-driving bus services in New York and Washington, D.C., using standard vehicles modified with cameras and other sensors, and with human safety drivers on board to prevent accidents. The new Polaris vehicles will be purely intended for autonomous driving. All sensors and computer gear will be installed at the factory, but steering controls and foot pedals will be left out. The system will enable humans to remotely command the vehicles to stop, or to pull over and park, but otherwise they’ll be entirely self-driven.
Optimus Ride’s vehicles are designed to shuttle people at slow speeds inside traffic-restricted environments, such as shopping malls or university campuses In such places “you have a concentration of shorter trips at slower speeds in localized environments,” said Sean Harrington, Optimus Ride’s chief executive, making them the safest way to operate self-driving vehicles in real-world settings.
Meanwhile, Motional Inc., a joint venture with South Korean carmaker Hyundai and Irish auto technology company Aptiv, said it’s developing a self-driving version of Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 electric car for use as a robotic taxicab. Last year Motional struck a deal with the ride-sharing company Lyft to provide a driverless taxi service. The Ioniq 5 is the vehicle that will be deployed for the service in major US cities, starting in 2023.