French-based startup Induct showcased an eight-person self-driving vehicle named Navia yesterday at CES. The shuttle, reminiscent of a Disneyland golf-cart, boasts a handful of gadgets like lasers, sensors, and various camera viewpoints that can sense en route obstacles, so as not to rely on GPS for navigation.
It will be the world's first autonomous vehicle to hit the commercial market. Powered by a 10 kilowatt-hour lithium phosphate battery that can be charged wirelessly, the car tops out at 12.5 miles per hour. Using a smartphone, you can call the shuttle to come pick you up like KITT from Nightrider or any number of Batmobiles. Once inside there is a touchscreen to input the location to which you want to be driven. Induct's software produces real-time maps, choosing the best routes, as well as a remote computer system that will set schedules and process requests.
Leaning more towards estate transit than real transportation, Navia has some leverage over Google's expected driverless car: it can detect pedestrians and change direction in a tenth of a second. It's also designed specifically to run on city streets and is even being shopped around as a viable substitute for conductor-driven buses—we can imagine these things saving a few car accidents in Florida's retirement communities, for example.
Induct's CEO, Pierre Lefèvre explained to Forbes that Navia would not replace conventional buses, but instead will manifest as a cheaper and more efficient public transit option where commuters can summon the shuttles on command.
"You can compare it to an intelligent robot," Lefèvre said. "It’s safe. It’s easy to set up." Unfortunately though, the vehicle has yet to go through the extensive safety tests needed to ascertain whether Navia will prevent accidents and deter in-shuttle overcrowding. But with beta programs setup at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Navia's future is looking pretty bright.