2014-01-07

Co.Exist

Want A Self-Driving Vehicle? Here's One You Can Buy Today

The first self-driving vehicle might not go on city streets at all. The plucky Navia aims to solve last mile problems (say a parking lot to the airport terminal) without a driver in sight.

You may pass Google's self-driving car while driving down the highway in California and Nevada, but the technology still isn't quite ready for mass market use (or, at least, Google is holding off on releasing it). But if you have $250,000 dollars to spare, there's another driverless vehicle available for purchase today: the Navia, an electric, autonomous eight-person shuttle that has already been tested on regular roads and inside university campuses around the world, all with minimal fanfare.

Developed by French software company Induct, the Navia is intended for "last-mile" trips--the trip from a campus entrance to a dorm, for example, or from a parking lot to a concert venue. With a top speed of just 12.5 miles per hour, the vehicle isn't exactly highway-ready. But that's not the point.

While it's based on some similar technology to Google's driverless car (it navigates with lasers), the Navia is designed to be operated completely independently. In Google's car, a driver is always present. The Navia has no driver, instead functioning like a driverless Uber or Lyft. "The Navia can wait for a call from a smartphone, come to take care of passengers, and take them where they want to go," explains Pierre Lefèvre, CEO of Induct.

Passengers choose where they want to go using a touch screen inside the vehicle. Even though a driver isn't present, each vehicle is monitored remotely. If something goes wrong, the Navia can be stopped immediately. There's also an emergency shut-off system inside the shuttle.

The vehicle can see up to 200 meters in front of it, 350 degrees around it, and can recognize objects like cars, pedestrians, and bikes. It's charged up by wireless induction chargers located in nearby parking lots. Six hours of charging yields just over 62 miles of drive time.

Lefèvre believes his first customers will be university campuses, amusement parks, airports, and other places that need to shuttle large numbers of people around in pedestrian-heavy areas. Of course, $250,000 is a lot of money to plunk down for a vehicle. But Lefèvre maintains that its 40% to 50% cheaper to operate than a traditional gasoline-powered shuttle that requires a driver (you don't pay for the gas or the driver).

Intuit plans on developing new vehicles in the future, but isn't aiming to sell its software to major auto manufacturers. "Our goal is not to put more cars into cities, it's to get less cars in the city," says Lefèvre. "We want to propose a different way to move inside cities and inside campuses."

[Images: Courtesy of Navia]

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5 Comments

  • I think cities are becoming over populated with cars. In downtown Toronto there are many walkers, but also many drivers! This self driving car idea is brilliant, it is like a small bus but without a driver. I truly think that this invention will impact cities everywhere, that it is sold. This not only reduces the use of other cars by carpooling, this also helps save the environment because it is electric. The only problem with it is the cost, i think that a quarter of a million dollars is too much, by having such a high price i think companies and areas will become less interested in buying the invention.

  • Matt Torre

    I think this driver less vehicle is a great way to eliminate the number of cars in high populated ares such as major cities. The vehicle is a great way for people traveling in major cities to get from place to place. The only issue with the vehicle is the cost.

  • Quinton Iddison

    Everything about this car is amazing! But there are two flaws with it. First of all it is too expensive so not to many people can afford it. The second flaw is the self driving. Its great when it works but when it has an issue it can and would be horrible. Not only can it take a single life but it could take out an entire family. My advice to fix that flaw is put in a manual over ride in it just in case it were to malfunction or have an issue. That could just save many lives.

  • This is very interesting because of the fact it can pick people up with a simple phone call. Technology keeps evolving the only problem with this car is if it takes over the cab/taxi service lots of people around the work would lose their jobs.

  • Avery Wannamaker

    This is a very interesting idea, that would greatly benefit me because i only have my g1 and i hate getting told no by my parents if i need a drive somewhere beCause they've been drinking and/or are too lazy to do drive. If we had this self driving car i would no longer need to ask my parents for rides and i could always go where i needed to go with no fuss. which would vastly change the way i live. Also this car would be very good for society because if someone was drunk, too lazy, or too young to drive they could use the self drive car all the time. However this car could be bad for society because first off it is way to expensive for the average person, not many people in the world have the income to buy a 250,000$ car. Secondly, just like a GPS this car could malfunction and if it did while someone was in it, it could take a life.