Optimus Ride is the first company to launch and operate a commercial self-driving service in New York.
A startup from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Optimus Ride is offering shuttle services at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre industrial park with over than 400 manufacturing businesses and 10,000 employees. As the Yard’s roads are fully private, the autonomous vehicles will not need to worry about navigating through public roads and walkways.
“The Brooklyn Navy Yard’s mission is to serve as a hub of urban innovation and we are constantly looking for new ways to improve the experiences of our tenants and visitors, said David Ehrenberg, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, in a statement. “We are excited to bring the future of transportation to New York with Optimus Ride, and provide the 10,000 employees across the Yard and the Brooklyn community with greater access to convenient mobility.”
A total of six self-driving vehicles have been produced to transport passengers throughout the Yard. Over 16,000 passengers per month are expected to take the shuttles, which will run from 7:00 am and to 10:30 pm every day. In the beginning, a safety driver and software operator will be in the vehicle while it’s operating.
The startup has already established autonomous vehicle systems throughout Boston, Massachusetts, and plans to establish programmes in Virginia, California and Massachusetts. It has completed over 20,000 trips since the company was founded in 2015.
“Launching our self-driving vehicle system in New York at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is yet another validation that not only is Optimus Ride’s system a safe, efficient means of transportation, but also that autonomous vehicles can solve real-world problems in structured environments – today,” said Dr Ryan Chin, CEO and co-founder of Optimus Ride.
“In addition, our system will provide access to and experience with autonomy for thousands of people, helping to increase acceptance and confidence of this new technology, which helps move the overall industry forward. We’re thrilled to work with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation to make history in the city and the state.”
Optimus Ride is currently focusing on deploying its vehicles within comprehensively mapped areas, including communities with residential and commercial buildings, retirement communities, corporate and university campuses, airports, resorts, and smart cities.
“It’s important to realize there are multiple approaches, and multiple markets, to self-driving,” Dr Chin told MIT News. “There’s no monolithic George Jetson kind of self-driving vehicle. You have robot trucks, you have self-driving taxis, self-driving pizza delivery machines, and each of these will have different time frames of technological development and different markets.”
The founders have estimated the value of transport services in those markets to be over $600 billion.
“We believe this is an important, huge business, but we also believe this is the first addressable market in the sense that we believe the first autonomous vehicles that will generate profits and make business sense will appear in these environments because you can build the tech much more quickly,” Dr Chin explained.