Nevada, and not for the first time, brings sparks to the electric and autonomous driving development scene.  And one of the most recent projects to debut is an autonomously driven electric buses.

Proterra is initiating the industry’s first autonomous bus program with the University of Nevada, Reno and its Living Lab Coalition partners

Proterra is initiating the industry’s first autonomous bus program with the University of Nevada, Reno and its Living Lab Coalition partners

Proterra has joined with the University of Nevada, Reno, and its Living Lab Coalition, in the industry’s first autonomous bus program for real world driving conditions.

The other partners are:

  • Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC)
  • Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Nevada Governor’s Office for Economic Development
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI
  • cities of Reno, Sparks and Carson City, Nev
Naturally, the most important part of the project is to develop system for real world conditions.

With that said,  it's still hard to say when we will see first production autonomous bus in public service, although we have seen some minibus trial programs already working on private property - college campuses, and even at Disney World shuttling employees and students around.

"Unlike other programs to date, this autonomous vehicle pilot will 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 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."

"The Living Lab program will include three main phases of research and development. Phase 1 focuses on data collection, vehicle instrumentation and intelligent transportation system assessment; Phase 2 on data mining, communications and algorithms development; and Phase 3 on licensing and commercialization. In the first phase, RTC’s state-of-the-art electric bus, manufactured by Proterra, will operate on specific city routes to sense and gather data, which will inform technology and systems development. The pilot is supported by the Knowledge Fund, an innovative funding mechanism developed by the State of Nevada to spur research, knowledge-intensive and innovation-driven economic development, and Research & Innovation at the University of Nevada, Reno."

Proterra

Proterra

Carlos Cardillo, PhD Director of the Nevada Center for Applied Research at the University of Nevada, Reno said:

“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. 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.”

Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra said:

“As more and more communities take steps to integrate autonomous vehicles, we will continue to advance mobility solutions that best meet those evolving needs, while embracing the highest safety standards on the market. We see the Living Lab pilot as a way to support ongoing safety improvements, encourage technology develop in autonomous vehicles, and better understand complex road dynamics.”