Proterra, Fraunhofer, Nevada and cities there beginning “industry first” autonomous bus program

By James Ayre on Clean Technica, 3 May 2017

The US-based electric bus pioneer Proterra has now begun what it has described as the industry’s “first” self-driving bus program. Its partners include the University of Nevada–Reno and the company’s Living Lab Coalition partners — amongst which are the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI, the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), the Nevada Governor’s Office for Economic Development, and the cities of Carson City, Sparks, and Reno.

Notably, the program will reportedly “deal with real road conditions from the perspective of public transit systems, and emphasize the most challenging aspects related to mass transportation, which include dense and dynamic environments, degraded conditions, and a need for swift emergency response.”

The press release provides more: “The pilot will also explore a new set of robotic perception algorithms that are required to address these conditions, and focus on tight cues from multi-modal sensors and new multi-modal localization and mapping. Rather than solely detect traffic, the Living Lab will focus on predicting traffic flows and plans to enhance safety. The University’s current work focuses on the problems of vehicle perception, navigation control, path planning and vehicle-to-vehicle as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure research.”

That sounds promising. If fully autonomous buses are to truly be used on the mass scale in urban regions, the technology will certainly have to improve considerably from where it is now.

“Autonomy is key for safety, efficiency and reliable transportation systems at scale. Our shared vision is to have robust, long-term autonomy to enable safer modes of transit,” stated Carlos Cardillo, PhD Director of the Nevada Center for Applied Research at the University of Nevada, Reno. “In the pilot, we plan to research and develop a robust set of algorithms for localization and mapping, object detection in the domains of multi-modal fusion and recognition of intent to ultimately advance robotic perception and move systems closer to our simultaneous goal of enhancing safety. The project involves University researchers in advanced-autonomous systems, computer sciences, synchronized mobility, robotics and civil engineering.”

The program will be split into 3 primary phases, with the first phase focusing on “data collection, vehicle instrumentation and intelligent transportation system assessment;” the second phase on “data mining, communications and algorithms development;” and the third phase on licensing of newly developed tech and commercialization.