On August 7th which is from tomorrow, the New York city first self-driving shuttle service opens its doors to the public in Brooklyn. Optimus Ride will run six autonomous shuttles whereas other companies have tested self-driving shuttles in New York City. The Optimus ride is the spinoff of MIT and it consists of half-dozen six-seater electric vehicles operating within a 300-acre walled-off industrial space called the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Much like another self-driving shuttle service which has cropped up in recent years across the country. It is restricted only to a single route: 1.1 miles from the entrance of the Navy Yard to the New York City Ferry dock on the East River. The service will operate on a continuous loop between 7 AM and 10:30 PM on weekdays. Moreover, each car has two safety drivers one behind the wheel and one in the passenger seat monitoring the vehicle’s sensors from a laptop.
Engineers at Optimus Ride’s offices in Boston will be monitoring the vehicles when they eventually go fully driverless, ready to issue commands if anything goes weird. According to the company, they are expected to carry 500 passengers per day and more than 16,000 passengers per month. The Navy Yard is in the middle of a high-tech reinvention that has seen the addition of hundreds of workers and tens of thousands of square feet of new office and light manufacturing space.
Another key feature of Navy yard is its private property which allows them Optimus Ride to avoid the chaos and unpredictability of public streets. The company was also able to avoid having to seek permission from the state Department of Motor Vehicle to launch its service. Also, the New York State Legislature passed a bill in 2017, requiring operators to obtain permission from the DMV to demo and test autonomous vehicles on public roads.
The Optimus ride operates a vehicle in Boston, California, and Northern Virginia is billing the Navy Yard deployment as the first commercial self-driving vehicle operates in New York. There have been a handful of demonstrations of autonomous technology. Audi completed a six-mile demo around the state’s capital in June 2017 after receiving approval from the DMV. Later that year, Cadillac performed a “hands-free” drive from its headquarters in New York City to New Jersey.
In 2017, GM announced plans to test its self-driving vehicles in lower Manhattan, but those plans have since dried up with little purpose of explanation. New York also elected officials that have largely ignored the self-driving phenomenon, instead of focusing their attention on the dire state of the city’s subway system. However, the Optimus ride vehicle is not authorized to leave the Navy Yard.
For the time being, Optimus ride is not concerned with making money. The company raised $18 million in its first round of fundraising, and it’s currently in the middle of its second round.