American bus manufacturer New Flyer recently took the wraps off an all-new battery-electric model it’s calling the Xcelsior AV. Electric buses are nothing new, of course, and we celebrate just about every inch they gain over their diesel-engined cousins, but what makes this particular new bus announcement special isn’t what’s under the hood of the Xcelsior AV. Rather, it’s what’s behind the wheel: nothing.
Developed in concert with engineers from Robotic Research, New Flyer claims the Xcelsior AV (for “Autonomous Vehicle”) is the first vehicle of its kind to offer SAE level 4 autonomy in North America. The autonomous capabilities are made possible by two primary technologies. The first is a sensor suite called AutoDrive, which is Robotic Research’s own self-driving technology. Sensors mounted on and in the bus serve as the eyes and brain of the self-driving system, and are constantly mapping the environment, making decisions, and navigating the bus’ pre-programmed route. The second system is AutoDrive ByWire, which are the physical/mechanical systems that act like the hands and feet of the automated system, which turn the steering wheel, pump the brakes, and ultimately, you know — drive the bus. All of which should mean smoother, safer travel for bus passengers and the people around them.
“Our Xcelsior AV represents the anticipated future of safety in public transit and the latest leap forward for New Flyer,” said Chris Stoddart, President, New Flyer. “We committed to building an automated transit bus and within five years, (and) we’ve delivered an industry-changing vehicle. The technology is real and it’s here … together with Robotic Research, we are leading clean, accessible, reliable mobility that’s safer for all.”
Last year, New Flyer announced North America’s first deployment of automated transit buses into revenue service as part of a pilot project with the Connecticut Department of Transportation funded by the Federal Transit Administration. The FTA’s Integrated Mobility Innovation initiative, as the project was called, supports “projects demonstrating innovative and effective practices to enhance public transportation effectiveness, efficiency, quality, safety, and transit rider experience.” According to New Flyer, its work with the Connecticut bus fleet is making meaningful towards proving that a number of autonomous vehicle’s imaged benefits are, in fact, real. The benefits they cite specifically are:
- Economic and societal: AVs save $242 billion in costs incurred by motor vehicle crashes, including $57.6 billion in lost workplace productivity, and $594 billion due to loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries.
- Safety: AVs improve safety and use ADAS technology to avoid collisions — of which 94% of serious crashes are caused by human error.
- Efficiency and convenience: roads filled with AVs could smooth traffic flow and reduce traffic congestion, freeing up to 50 minutes per day of non-driving.
- Mobility, accessibility, and jobs: studies suggest that AVs could create new employment opportunities for approximately two million people with disabilities.
You can watch New Flyer’s new self-driving bus get put through its paces driving, parking, and more in this great video from the company. It also gives a good overview of some of the sensors being used to keep not just passengers safe, but — crucially, as they become more and more popular — urban cyclists safe, as well! Check it out for yourself, then let us know what you think of the Excelsior AV in the comments.
North America’s First SAE Level 4 Autonomous Bus
Source | Images: New Flyer.