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An electric shuttle is the first driverless car to go on sale in the world at the price of £170,000. A small French technology company has beaten the major car manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota in the race to be the first to put a driverless car on the road.
The company known as Induct Technology are based just outside Paris, and have this week launched an all-electric self-driving shuttle called Navia at the Consumer Electrics Show in Las Vegas.
The batteries for the Navia vehicle were developed by British company Oxis Energy which has also helped with the testing of the car as a ferry for visitors to its premises at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire.
At present, the new Navia has a long way to go before it becomes a mainstream vehicle which your next door neighbour might invest in to save money on the school run, particular when the cost is so high at £170,000. International regulations currently prevent driverless cars from taking to public roads in Europe and the Navia is currently unable to recognise traffic signals.
However, despite the above the Navia is being billed as the ‘first-mile, last–mile’ solution for use around areas such as college campuses, hospitals, industrial sites and shopping malls where conventional cars are impractical. There is also potential for Navias to add mobility to elderly and disabled people.
Although the prototype doesn’t look particularly attractive or futuristic, the actual components that make up the Navia can be houses in almost any body the customer chooses. Inside, there are no controls or seats and the top speed is restricted to just 12.5mph. Passengers can call for the car by using a smartphone and then tap their destination into an onboard tablet computer.
The Navia navigates its way around by the use of laser-based lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors which give a 200-yard sweep of the road ahead. If the Navia detects an obstacle it will stop then make a decision on whether it is safe to proceed and how best to go about doing so.
“It’s a bit like a lift,” says Induct’s head of business development, Adrian Sussmann. “If it gets stuck it stops and you just press a call button to get help.”
Despite the high price, the first four buyers of the Navia, in America, are soon to be announced.