ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Bus manufacturer New Flyer this week announced an exclusive partnership with Robotic Research to advance autonomous bus technology by developing and deploying advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in heavy-duty transit bus applications. The goal of the partnership is to have a Level 4 autonomous bus operating on a closed course by 2020.
New Flyer, a subsidiary of NFI Group, said it invested more than two years assessing technology providers for sophisticated autonomous vehicle development. New Flyer said it selected Robotic Research based on the company’s proven artificial intelligence-based technology, coupled with its extensive experience delivering successful Level 5 autonomous vehicle applications for customers within the defense and intelligence community, including the U.S. Department of Defense.
“New Flyer has a proud history of leading innovation, industry firsts, and technology advancement in public transportation,” said Chris Stoddart, President, New Flyer. “Our ADAS vision supports the mobility needs of all Americans relying on public transit for safe and reliable transportation every day. Partnering with Robotic Research furthers our commitment to utilize the best expertise and technology available while reaffirming our responsibility to work with regulators and stakeholders on standards and test protocols that integrate automated vehicles safely into the existing transportation system.”
The partnership will pursue the development of an Xcelsior CHARGE battery-electric bus equipped with Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standard J3016 Level 4 ADAS technology. SAE J3016 Level 4 is defined as high automation where the vehicle performs all driving tasks autonomously while actively monitoring the driving environment. The technology will be tested at Robotic Research facilities in late 2019, with closed course operation anticipated for 2020. To simulate realistic public transit applications, a trained on-board safety attendant will be utilized for evaluation and demonstration.
“We are extremely excited to be partnering with New Flyer to help usher in a new future for public transportation that offers greater safety for the public and reduced carbon emissions for our environment,” said Edward Mottern, Vice President of Robotic Research. “New Flyer’s clear commitment to investing in both of these outcomes by harnessing the power of the latest technologies available, together with their leadership in public transportation, make them an outstanding partner of choice.”
Robotic Research is a privately held, U.S.-based innovative engineering and technology company providing software, robotic technology, and autonomous solutions to commercial and government customers, with testing facilities are located in Gaithersburg and Clarksburg, Maryland.
“Over the past 24 months of working together, we have witnessed that New Flyer’s engineering processes, values, and validation approach to technology are strongly aligned for a successful outcome,” added Mottern. “From the onset, both companies agreed safety and workforce training considerations would guide our collaborative development approach. The team is looking forward to demonstrating the technology in a multitude of pilot programs being funded around the US and other countries.”
Continued investment in the technology of the future
New Flyer’s significant investment in ADAS technology builds on a history marked with advancements transit innovation. In 2017, New Flyer opened its Vehicle Innovation Center, the first and only innovation lab of its kind in North America dedicated to the advancement of bus and coach technology. Since opening, the VIC has welcomed over 1,500 attendees through its doors for industry-wide collaboration, education, and workforce development related to zero-emission, connected, and automated vehicle technologies.
With the announcement of its Robotic Research partnership, New Flyer further supports the Federal Transit Administration Strategic Transit Automation Research Plan to assess potential risks, barriers and mitigation strategies associated with the implementation of automation technologies in transit buses. This plan also adopts SAE J3016 levels and definitions.
In March 2019, New Flyer was invited by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to participate alongside transportation industry leaders in critical discussions regarding automation adoption and workforce development, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Commerce, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.