Autonomous vehicles finally reach the Big Apple. Optimus Ride, a new autonomous company based in Boston, announced plans to deploy an autonomous transportation service in New York City in the second quarter of 2019. The company also plans to offer trips to residents of the Paradise retirement community Valley in north California.
To be sure, robot cars will not fight for space in Times Square in the short term. The Optimus Ride autonomous transports will run on closed circuits on private roads within the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre private factory of World War II that is in the midst of a high-tech reinvention. The transportation service will be available to some 8,500 people working in the Navy Yard's heavy and light manufacturing businesses, as well as future passengers of the East River ferry service in New York City, which plans to open a new pier in the Navy Yard in early 2019.
Optimus Ride would not say how many vehicles it would be deploying, nor would it provide any specification for the type of vehicle it uses. "The fleet of automatic vehicles on the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Paradise Valley properties will increase throughout the deployment period," a spokesperson said in an email. "Optimus Ride uses neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) that are designed to operate in 25 mph environments. Optimus Ride is vehicle independent and can integrate our automatic driving technologies into any type of vehicle. "
However, it is a significant advance, considering that New York has largely been left out of the boom of taxis in the In recent years, the New York State Legislature approved a bill authorizing demonstrations and tests of autonomous vehicles on public thoroughfares, but since then, the streets of New York have been devoid of robot cars, since operators went to places with friendlier regulations (like Arizona) or that are more convenient for their headquarters (like California).
Optimus Ride, a spin off from MIT, is billing the Navy Yard deployment as the "first commercial deployment. of self-driving vehicles in the state of New York. "But there have been a handful of autonomous technology demonstrations, Audi completed a demost Six-mile ration around the state capital in June 2017 after receiving approval from the DMV. Later that year, Cadillac made a "hands-free" trip from its headquarters in New York City to New Jersey.
Since then, New York has been a ghost town for AV testing. Part of the reason could be the strict requirements of the state, which include a state police escort at all times that must be paid by the testing company. In 2017, GM announced plans to test its automatic vehicles in Lower Manhattan, but those plans have dried up with little explanation as to why.
And the elected officials of New York have largely ignored the phenomenon of autonomous driving, instead focusing on the desperate state of the city's metro system. The mayor of the city of New York, Bill de Blasio, opposed GM's deployment at that time, and remains skeptical about the technology.
"If this pilot complies with the insurance laws and other non-traffic laws and remains confined to the Navy Yard of Brooklyn, which is private, then it can operate," said Seth Stein, a spokesman for the mayor, in a mail electronic. "The mayor has expressed strong opposition to trying a new technology on our busy streets." (A spokesman for the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, did not respond to a request for comment).
Navy Yard and Paradise Valley, an 80-acre retirement community located in Fairfield, California, would be the third and fourth public facilities of Optimus Ride, respectively. The company also plans to run a stand-alone taxi service at Halley Rise, a $ 1.4 billion mixed-use development project in Reston, Va., Which will begin later this year. Previously, Optimus Ride deployed a handful of robot cars near its base of operations in the Seaport district of Boston.
These deployments recall similar services that are available from startups such as Voyage in retirement communities in California and Florida, or Drive.ai in Frisco, Texas: mostly low-speed autonomous vehicles in geographically controlled areas and tightly controlled with a Operations team In constant communication with cars. These vehicles, small, usually electric, with capacity for no more than a dozen people, have proliferated in cities around the world. Experts see them as a good entry point for autonomous vehicle technology, while regulators like to keep vehicles in small, less populated areas.