The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Beep, Ollie Team Up To Go Nationwide; MIT Estimates 10-Year Wait For Widespread AV Deployment; And More

by Anna Polo | July 30, 2020

Beep, Local Motors To Take Services Nationwide
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) vendor Beep has announced it is collaborating with AV shuttle manufacturer Local Motors to expand its fleet and deploy autonomous, electric shuttles across the country. Under the agreement, Local Motors will supply Beep with its Olli 2.0 3D-printed electric AV shuttles while the companies work to expand deployment of AV shuttles on public and private roads nationwide, building up use cases and pushing for legislation in the U.S. and Canada to allow more vehicles without a federal classification to operate on public roads.

The Olli shuttles will join Beep’s existing fleet of Navya shuttles, which recently made headlines when they were deployed by Beep to transport COVID-19 samples across the Mayo Clinic’s facility in Jacksonville, FL from testing center to laboratory. Beep is also nearing approval for a three-month, $140,000 trial to run autonomous shuttles along a waterfront stretch of St. Petersburg, FL.

Widespread AV Deployment At Least A Decade Away, Says MIT Task Force
Fully autonomous vehicles will take at least 10 years to arrive, according to a new brief published recently by MIT’s Task Force on the Work of the Future. The report’s authors conclude that fully automated driving will be restricted to limited geographical regions and climates for at least the next decade—with winter climates and rural areas experiencing longer transitions—while also noting “that increasingly automated mobility systems will thrive in subsequent decades.”

Commentators have noted that the anticipated long lead time for passenger AVs has given rise to AV trucking and freight transportation. VentureBeat notes that driverless trucks have the potential to save $70 billion annually while boosting productivity by 30 percent, while also addressing the workforce gap in the trucking industry which the American Trucking Associations estimated to be 50,000 drivers in 2018. But as truckers do more than simply drive, companies like Waymo are exploring transfer hub models—in which an autonomous truck covers the long-distance highway miles, but human drivers cover the first mile/last mile portions of the journeys.

Researchers Urge Tesla To Use Camera-Based Monitoring For Autopilot
Researchers presenting at this year’s Automated Vehicle Summit have called on Tesla to institute camera-based driver monitoring in Tesla Autopilot. Its current system senses force and grip on the steering wheel—a system which some have noted is possible to skirt by weighting the wheel. In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration even stepped in to end the use of an aftermarket product called “Autopilot Buddy,” which disabled Tesla’s safety sensors.

The researchers’ call comes as officials in South Korea announced they were launching a safety probe into Tesla vehicles. The authorities have said they are investigating suspected safety issues with Tesla, which is in competition with Hyundai in the South Korean EV market. A Korean transportation ministry official added that braking and steering systems, as well as the Autopilot function, were part of the investigation.