Today, when you need a ride, you probably grab a taxi or use a ride-hailing service. You might also choose public transportation like busses and subways. Navya wants to change the way you get around with its autonomous electric shuttles.
These shuttles aren’t just prototypes. They’re on the road in over 20 countries and you can even find them in the US on the University of Michigan campus.
We had the chance to go for a ride in a Navya shuttle at the Movin’On with Michelin conference in Montreal. It accommodates 15 passengers – 11 seated and 4 standing – with plenty of room for backpacks and briefcases and feels surprisingly airy with an abundance of windows.
It’s fully autonomous with no driver, but any human can take over in an emergency and stop the shuttle, even though it doesn’t have a steering wheel. There are two emergency stop buttons and an Xbox controller plugged in and mounted just beneath the destination touchscreen. The controller can be used to drive the shuttle in a pinch.
The Navya shuttle isn’t designed to go blazing around the highway and in the US it isn’t permitted out on public roads. It has a top speed of only 15 mph, which makes it more suited to school or business campuses.
It’s also intended as a first and last mile travel solution. Rather than having to drive directly to a location where parking is spare and traffic is congested, the Navya shuttle could provide service from an off-site area, helping reduce congestion in busy downtown areas.
Our ride took us along a pedestrian access road as people were entering the conference and, unsurprisingly, people got in the way. It was a challenging environment, but the shuttle was just fine.
It detected people at a preset distance and stopped when someone was too close. It also sounded a chime to let them know they were in the way and then waited until they moved before continuing to our chosen destination.
People don’t always pay attention and you might wonder what happens if they don’t hear the pleasant little warning chime. After ten seconds, the shuttle sounds a traditional car horn that simply cannot be missed.
While you might still be calling for a taxi today, the future of mobility includes more options. One day, vehicles like the Navya autonomous electric shuttle could be your first choice.