First self-driving shuttle coasts into New York’s Times Square

Coast Autonomous CTO Pierre Lefevre and the P-1 Shuttle
Coast Autonomous CTO Pierre Lefevre visits Times Square with the company’s P-1 autonomous shuttle. Jeremy Kaplan / Digital Trends

There’s an extra bus cruising through the heart of Times Square this morning – but there’s no one behind the wheel of this vehicle. It doesn’t even have a wheel.

Coast Autonomous, a new entry in the crowded self-driving vehicle market, kicked off a day of demonstrations on Broadway in New York’s crowded Times Square, a symbolic location meant to demonstrate the company’s confidence in its technology. While Coast is only a year old, it has been working on the tech for 15 years, Chief Technology Officer Pierre Lefèvre told Digital Trends.

Indeed, Coast’s tech is behind Navya, the company whose self-driving buses power Keolis vans that have been shuttling folks up and down the Las Vegas strip. And occasionally having minor fender-benders.

Coast’s first vehicle, called the P-1 Shuttle, is a bi-directional van that looks normal from the outside. Inside, it’s basically a bathtub on wheels, with no seats for a driver or passengers and no space for a driver at all. Instead, the interior is just a ring of seats at the windows that circles the cabin, and a space for a door. One wall has a built-in screen for displaying information to passengers; during our demo, it showed diagnostics from onboard computers and lines of code on the status of CAN network components and onboard elements such as oMotorTorque and oParkingBrake. One imagines ride info and ads being posted up there in the future, of course.

Lefèvre said the van’s wheelbase was shorter than Navya’s offering, yet had more room for passengers. It appeared able to hold 10 to 12 passengers comfortably, as long as some riders skipped the seats and stood in the main cabin. With fewer seats, the company claims it can hold up to 20.

Electric motors in the wheel hubs move the P-1 along predefined routes, making the vehicle run quietly and smoothly. In a brief demo on a sweaty Tuesday morning, the vehicle cruised up and down Broadway inaudibly and stopped smoothly – crucial, because it lacks safety gear such as seat belts and grab rails. Lefèvre said the goal is to maximize comfort for passengers, so rather than optimize for speed, it’s optimized to slow down smoothly. And since passengers don’t waste time strapping themselves in, the shuttle shaves precious seconds from picking up and dropping people off.

The Coast Autonomous vehicle is designed to operate in low-speed, mixed-traffic environments. It’s optimized for 10 to 15 mph speeds, though it can go up to 20, using a GPS map for navigation. It relies on a pair of LIDAR sensors at front and rear to map out the road ahead and avoid obstacles.

“We are convinced that the deployment of driverless vehicles in low-speed environments, like our P-1 Shuttle and autonomous golf cart, are much closer to commercialization than self-driving vehicles designed to travel at highway speeds,” said Adrian Sussmann, Coast’s managing director, in a press release about the NYC event. “This is mainly because operating at low speeds is much safer, requires less sensors, and is therefore much more cost effective. We are already seeing significant interest and expect to deploy our first fleets in 2019.”


Automakers are spending billions on self-driving technology people are afraid of

Automakers are spending billions of dollars on developing the technology that will power self-driving cars, but research shows consumers have no interest in giving up control. Will they ever recoup their investment?
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Nuro’s awesome robot delivery pods are tootling into Texas

Robo-delivery startup Nuro is taking its cool-looking autonomous delivery pods to Texas. The pods will deliver Kroger groceries to customers' doors in Houston following a successful pilot program in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Nearly 3 in 4 Americans are reportedly afraid of self-driving cars, study says

The latest AAA consumer survey finds most Americans fear self-driving cars. Few people would trust autonomous vehicles to transport people they care about. However, 53 percent of consumers think most cars will be fully autonomous by 2029.

Sibling rivalry: The Tesla Model Y takes on the Tesla Model 3

Tesla expanded its lineup with a fourth car named Model Y. It's an electric crossover positioned as a more spacious alternative to the Model 3. The two cars share about 75 percent of their components, but they're aimed at different buyers.

Can electric cars be S3XY? Tesla says yes with the new Model Y crossover

Tesla introduced a crossover named Model Y at its design studio in Los Angeles. It's a more spacious alternative to the Model 3 it shares 75 percent of its parts with, and is a smaller sibling to the Model X.

Unrestrained by heritage, Polestar sets its sights on becoming a digital brand

With no heritage to worry about, Polestar is free to move full-speed ahead towards its goal of becoming a digital brand. All of the company's upcoming models will be electric, and they will inaugurate an Android-powered infotainment system.

Adventurous and electric, Porsche’s second station wagon will arrive in 2020

The Mission E Cross Turismo concept Porsche unveiled during the 2018 Geneva Auto Show will morph into a production model tentatively named Taycan Cross Turismo. This 600-horsepower electric station wagon will arrive in showrooms by 2021.

Mustang-like and electrified. What did Ford just show a preview of?

Ford posted an enigmatic picture of a blue Mustang emblem on a black background right as Tesla prepared to introduce the Model Y. Is the Blue Oval teasing a hybrid Mustang, or is it previewing a Mustang-inspired, battery-powered crossover?

Amazon and Kia team up to simplify EV home-charging station installs

Kia Motors announced a new program with Amazon for electric vehicles. Customers planning to purchase a new Kia EV or PHEV can check out recommended Level 2 240-volt home charging stations and arrange installation in their homes.

Audi’s traffic light information system shows the challenges facing V2X tech

Audi’s traffic light information system is among the first commercial applications of potentially game-changing V2X tech. So how does it work in the real world? We spent a few days getting stuck at red lights to find out.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Fisker plans sub-$40,000 electric SUV with 300 miles of range for 2021

Fisker Inc. plans to launch an electric SUV with a base price of under $40,000, and a range of around 300 miles in 2021. The unnamed vehicle could compete with the Tesla Model Y, if it ever gets into production.

Tesla gives us a cryptic look at its cyberpunk, Blade Runner-inspired pickup

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself. It could make its debut in 2019.