French company Induct has perfected and launched an autonomous vehicle which can navigate routes from memory and it is now on sale with several units already sold.
Induct’s modest Navia vehicle is entirely powered by electricity, and can chaperone people without a driver by relying on existing data describing the road it is traveling.
In order to stay on course without the help of rails, GPS, or anything external to the vehicle, the Navia uses laser beams to navigate the streets.
This technology is a little simpler than the kind used by Google’s driverless car, which builds a 3D model of the world around it; Navia is impressive because it does not depend on a change of road infrastructure for its operation.
The Navia’s route must be programmed into the vehicle for future reference. It relies on anchor points in order to determine where it needs to go, and learns them simply by driving around the area it needs to navigate. While these anchor points take some time to learn, once they are in its memory, the Navia can navigate without assistance.
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Currently, the Navia only travels at 20 MPH. It will not probably be used on public roads any time soon — nor, with its utter lack of restraining harnesses, is it meant to. Right now, the Navia is a campus vehicle, which can be used to provide automated, reliable transportation around a college campus, airport, parking lot, etc.
While a little pricey at $250,000, once it is set up, the Navia takes care of itself, requiring no driver, and no liquid fuel. It doesn’t even require anybody to charge it – the Navia drives itself to an inductive charging station to power up.
No word on how quickly this technology will get adopted around the world. However, the company lists a number of customers who are already using the self-driving vehicle in Switzerland, Singapore, France and the U.K.