Automotive

Navya Arma: A glimpse into the boring, utilitarian self-driving future

Navya Arma: A glimpse into the...
Navya Arma: a glimpse into the not-so-exciting future of autonomous vehicles
Navya Arma: a glimpse into the not-so-exciting future of autonomous vehicles
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Navya Arma: multiple sensors let the Arma read static and dynamic obstacles in its environment
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Navya Arma: multiple sensors let the Arma read static and dynamic obstacles in its environment
Navya Arma: 45kmh top speed
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Navya Arma: 45kmh top speed
Navya Arma: self driving shuttle seats 15
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Navya Arma: self driving shuttle seats 15
Navya Arma: already available for use within large sites
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Navya Arma: already available for use within large sites
Navya Arma: can be rolled out as a bus-style service or an on-demand taxi service
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Navya Arma: can be rolled out as a bus-style service or an on-demand taxi service
Navya Arma: uses stereo cameras, LiDAR and other sensor technology to read its environment
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Navya Arma: uses stereo cameras, LiDAR and other sensor technology to read its environment
Navya Arma: side doors pop out to allow passengers in and out
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Navya Arma: side doors pop out to allow passengers in and out
Navya Arma: can use a programmable sign to communicate with passengers
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Navya Arma: can use a programmable sign to communicate with passengers
Navya Arma: a glimpse into the not-so-exciting future of autonomous vehicles
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Navya Arma: a glimpse into the not-so-exciting future of autonomous vehicles
Navya Arma: slow and steady autonomous vehicles will be the future
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Navya Arma: slow and steady autonomous vehicles will be the future
Navya Arma: some on-road testing is already underway in France
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Navya Arma: some on-road testing is already underway in France

This autonomous French shuttle bus is already on sale, and deployed on a number of geofenced sites including a 220-hectare EDF power plant in Civaux. Fully electric and capable of operating like a set-route bus or an on-demand taxi, the Navya Arma carries 15 people at a top speed up to 45 km/h. It's also undergoing road testing. Efficient, useful, slow and unexciting, it's much like what we can expect when self-driving cars hit the roads en masse.

The writing is on the wall: self-driving cars will swarm our roads within the next couple of decades. They'll be cheaper, safer, more efficient. Our grandchildren – heck, even our children – will probably never learn to drive if they live in an urban environment.

While it's fun to think about in a futurism sense, there will be little excitement where the real change happens. Autonomous vehicles will, by their nature, be boring. For the most part they'll have utilitarian looks. They'll be quiet and electric, they'll be slow and conservative drivers. They'll basically be a more personal version of public transport.

Like this thing, for example. Navya, the French manufacturer of the Arma, says it's the first fully autonomous vehicle system that's actually available to buy right now.

Navya Arma: side doors pop out to allow passengers in and out
Navya Arma: side doors pop out to allow passengers in and out

Arma is a 15-seat self-driving shuttle bus that can be programmed to do all sorts of short trips, primarily within a geo-fenced area and off the open road. It can be rolled out fairly quickly, as it doesn't require any specific infrastructure beyond an inductive charging station.

Arma sees and senses its environment using GPS, LiDAR and stereo cameras, so it can avoid static and dynamic obstacles as it moseys its way along between a set of pre-programmed pick-up, drop-off and charging points on a shift that can last between 5 and 13 hours. Passengers get in, hit a destination, then sit and wait as the Arma decides on the best way to get there.

You can set them up to work like buses, where the route is set, or like taxis, where they can be called from various locations as needed.

It's already in use at several sites. Most notably half a dozen of them are shuttling workers and visitors around the 220 hectare site of the EDF power plant in Civaux, where door-to-door trips between offices can be up to 2.5 km (1.6 mi). They circulate every 5 minutes, replacing a diesel bus that used to get around once every 15, and EDF estimates that they'll get as much as 3 million euros' worth of extra productivity from its workforce thanks to the waiting time being cut down.

Check out the video below:

Presentation of the AUTONOM SHUTTLE fleet on the EDF nuclear plant of Civaux (Sub-titled)

Arma is not designed to be fast. Its maximum speed is just 45 km/h (28 mph), and I suspect most sites will restrict that even lower if there's any pedestrians around. Instead it's designed to be useful. And in that sense, it seems to have nailed its early design targets.

Some on-road testing is underway in France, suggesting that Arma will likely be ready for road rollout once a technological and legal framework is in place for driverless vehicles.

Source: Navya Arma

3 comments
habakak
Viva le France! Well done. This is a good proving ground for autonomous and electric transportation. It's baby steps, but that's how everything works. What I don't understand though, is how the one manager says they were using a diesel bus which made them look like fools compared to what other people are doing. He makes it sound like their solution (autonomous and electric) is old hat???? Security and fare payment will be one of the main issues with an autonomous solution like this. I guess more cameras inside the bus and an automated turnstile perhaps could be potential solutions. But all those cameras will need to be monitored. Now, a bus conductor could still be hired to fill that role amongst other things (assist passengers and to help with luggage, etc.). So if anything, this would not kill jobs. This is all about improving safety and efficiency. Besides, driving a bus is stressful and boring.
Bob Flint
Yes as a shuttle, with little or no other traffic, but won't work in mixed traffic with higher speeds, pedestrians alone will bring it to a halt as in ; https://youtu.be/5v4xIyiCkno
Madlyb
The design is very good looking, but it will need to be able to drive at least 35 mph to not be a bottleneck in the states.