Driverless Shuttles Are Ready for Primetime

Create: 07/18/2017 - 14:46
autonomous shuttles

Photo: Driverless shuttle Las Vegas/NAVYA and Keolis Commuter Services


Autonomous vehicles are on the fast track for development, and the segment for the cars along with the related IoT technology is promising to be a high growth area. According to global management consulting firm BCG, from 2025 to 2035 growth in the market for partially and fully autonomous vehicles will likely reach between $42 billion and $77 billion.

One of the biggest players in the autonomous shuttle space is the French company NAVYA and its ARMA offering. Initially launched in October 2015, the ARMA is a 100 percent electric and autonomous transport vehicle. The environmentally friendly shuttle’s batteries can be recharged by induction and can last from 5 to 13 hours depending on the configuration and traffic conditions.

The first Level 5 entirely autonomous series vehicle, the ARMA does not require any driver or specific infrastructure and is capable of adapting to any situation by avoiding both static and dynamic obstacles. It can transport up to 15 passengers and safely drive up to 27.9 mph. The shuttle is the fruit of 10 years of research and technological expertise.

Design Pillars

The NAVYA ARMA’s technical design resides on three pillars—perception, decision and navigation:

  • Perception enables the understanding of the environment in which the vehicle is located, detecting obstacles and anticipating possible displacements.
  • Decision computes and determines its itinerary and trajectory.
  • Navigation applies and follows the most optimal route computed for the vehicle.

The vehicle is equipped with state-of-the-art multi-sensor technology which includes LIDAR sensors, GPS RTK, an odometer and camera stereovision.

NAVYA has been gaining significant market traction in the United States this year with multiple deployments of its flagship ARMA, including those in Las Vegas, Ann Arbor, Michigan and a yet to be solidified partnership with Walt Disney World in Florida.

Autonomous High Rollers

A pilot deployed in Las Vegas in January using NAVYA’s ARMA enabled people in the Fremont Street entertainment district of downtown to summon a free driverless shuttle ride with the simple push of a button.

While the oval-shaped bus did have a human assistant, it had no driver, no steering wheel and no brake pedal. Running right in the thick of regular traffic—using electronic curb sensors, GPS and additional technology—the ARMA doesn’t depend on lane lines to make its way along busy Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street.

The pilot demonstration was conducted inside the new Innovation District, which is designed as a testing ground for technology in the sectors of transportation and alternative energy. The city has also invested considerably in its connected infrastructure, which includes connected traffic lights throughout the downtown area.

The project was made possible by a partnership between NAVYA and public transportation systems operator Keolis North America.

U of M Makes a Smart Vehicle Choice

Beginning in the fall of this year, two of NAVYA’s driverless shuttles will be deployed at the University of Michigan. The entirely autonomous shuttle buses will service a two-mile route between the North Campus Research Complex on Plymouth Road and the Lurie Engineering Center, carrying a maximum of 15 passengers.

The shuttles are being deployed in partnership with Mcity, the University of Michigan’s 32-acre testing facility where tech startups and automakers frequently test self-driving vehicles. Students, teachers and visitors will be able to able to hitch a ride in the driverless pods free of charge.

Historically a leader in the automotive industry, Michigan is hoping to position itself as a leader in the autonomous driving industry, too. In December 2016 its Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that will allow fully driverless cars on the state’s roads as soon as the vehicles are ready to go.

Where Futuristic Transportation Dreams Come True

Florida’s Walt Disney World looks to be readying to launch what would be perhaps the highest-profile commercial use of driverless shuttles yet. The family entertainment goliath is testing a fleet of driverless shuttles that could ultimately be used to ferry visitors through myriad parking lots and around its sprawling theme parks.

The company is said to be in late-stage negotiation with at least two autonomous shuttle manufacturers—NAVYA, and Local Motors, based in Phoenix. It is not yet clear if contracts would go to only one of the companies, or to both.

According to anonymous sources, the company is planning to begin a pilot program later this year that would use the electric autonomous vehicles to transport employees across its vast campus. If successful, the pilot would be followed sometime next year by shuttles that would transport park visitors through parking areas and around the numerous parks.

There are no current plans for the deployment of driverless shuttles at Disneyland in California, according to the sources. While the reason remains unclear, it may have something to do with California’s stricter regulations around autonomous vehicles vs. Florida’s few restrictions on driverless vehicle deployments.

IoT autonomous shuttles

Image: Intel

Hit the Road

  • Learn more about autonomous driving at Mcity and find out more about its partner network.
  • See what is on the horizon for autonomous driving powered by Intel.
  • Think about how to get your share of the $7 trillion market size future, see the infographic and download the Intel repot: The Passenger Economy

About Author

Melanie McMullen
Melanie is an expert technology writer who specializes in covering the IoT, cloud, mobile computing, and emerging technology markets. Melanie has held top editorial and content development positions at, Internet Business magazine, and LAN Magazine. She has written hundreds of global business technology articles and blogs and co-authored The Standard for Internet Commerce.

Latest Videos