Electric Bus Manufacturer Begins Autonomous Program in U.S.

Proterra, a heavy-duty electric transportation company, has announced the company is initiating an autonomous bus program with the University of Nevada, Reno, and its Living Lab Coalition partners.

As reported, the Living Lab Coalition partners include the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, the Nevada Governor’s Office for Economic Development, Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI, and the cities of Reno, Sparks and Carson City, Nev.

Unlike other programs to date, this autonomous vehicle pilot will deal with real road conditions from the perspective of public transit systems and emphasize the most challenging aspects related to mass transportation, which include dense and dynamic environments, degraded conditions and a need for swift emergency response.

The pilot will also explore a new set of robotic perception algorithms to address these conditions and focus on tight cues from multi-modal sensors and new multi-modal localization and mapping. Rather than solely detect traffic, the Living Lab will focus on predicting traffic flows and plans to enhance safety. The university’s current work focuses on the problems of vehicle perception, navigation control, path planning and vehicle-to-vehicle, as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure research.

“Autonomy is key for safety, efficiency and reliable transportation systems at scale. Our shared vision is to have robust, long-term autonomy to enable safer modes of transit,” says Carlos Cardillo, director of the Nevada Center for Applied Research at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The Living Lab program will include three main phases of research and development. In the first phase, RTC’s electric bus, manufactured by Proterra, will operate on specific city routes to sense and gather data, which will inform technology and systems development.

The pilot is supported by the Knowledge Fund, a funding mechanism developed by the State of Nevada to spur research, knowledge-intensive and innovation-driven economic development, and Research & Innovation at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“As more and more communities take steps to integrate autonomous vehicles, we will continue to advance mobility solutions that best meet those evolving needs while embracing the highest safety standards on the market,” says Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra.

Proterra, which designs and manufactures zero-emission vehicles that enable bus fleet operators to eliminate dependency on fossil fuels and reduce operating costs, has sold more than 380 vehicles to 36 different municipal, university and commercial transit agencies in 20 states across the U.S. Proterra says its configurable EV platform, battery and charging options make its buses well-suited for a wide range of transit and campus routes.

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