First American Autonomous Bus Project Starts in Nevada

Proterra has begun America’s first autonomous bus test project in Nevada, one of the leading states in autonomous driving legislation. In partnership with the University of Nevada and its Living Lab Coalition, Proterra will develop and test the zero-emission vehicles in downtown Reno.

Unlike other programs, the project aims to develop a system for real world driving conditions. It will need to deal with difficult situations, including emergency response, varied road conditions and dense traffic. Implementing the project will be complex due to strict laws, which will differ from private autonomous vehicles.

The Living Lab program has three development stages; data collection, algorithm development and licensing and commercialization. First, the battery-powered bus will be driven by a human and will pick up data about the different city routes using sensors. Using this data, engineers will try different algorithms to see how they would perform autonomously, looking for ways to improve safety and predict traffic flow. The algorithms will aim to solve issues of vehicle perception, navigation control and path planning. The university will also focus on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure research. The end goal is to allow one of the programs to steer, under the watchful eye of a human supervisor.

Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra believes that autonomous buses will become a common part of daily life and that they will be free to the public, with governments covering the costs with their budgets.

“As more and more communities take steps to integrate autonomous vehicles, we will continue to advance mobility solutions that best meet those evolving needs while embracing the highest safety standards on the market,” said Popple. New York, California and Arizona are also accepting applications for autonomous vehicle testing. While battery-powered transit vehicles represent just 1% of the market, Popple has claimed that electric buses are currently cheaper than diesel and CNG and could rule the transit bus market within the next decade.

Automated and battery-powered vehicles are disrupting the transportation industry. Projects like this have an exciting future but there is still much development to be done. Companies who are helping to solve issues in this space can benefit from the R&D tax credit. Contact Swanson Reed R&D tax specialists to see if your activities qualify.

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