Billions of dollars have poured into research and testing by companies like Waymo, GM-backed Cruise, Amazon’s Zoox and startup TuSimple to teach cars and trucks how to drive themselves. Meanwhile, transit was an afterthought. That’s changing as North America’s biggest maker of city buses has created a heavy-duty autonomous model it hopes to put into service next year.
The battery-powered Xcelsior AV from New Flyer is the first Level-4 autonomous transit bus being readied for service in North America, with testing to start as early as 2022 in a program with Connecticut’s Department of Transportation. (A human driver will remain at the wheel as a backup.) The 40-foot vehicle, able to carry 80 passengers, is loaded with laser lidar sensors, cameras and radar for 360-degree, 3D vision in daylight or at night, computers, software and a drive-by-wire system provided by Robotic Research, a private engineering firm in Maryland that’s created autonomous vehicles for the Defense Department for about two decades.