The college of the future is coming, and it's coming on an autonomous electric car. Auro Robotics is currently testing its driverless shuttle car in various college campuses, including Santa Clara University where it has begun to deploy prototypes as well.
Auro Robotics was originally founded in India by Nalin Gupta and his team, who graduated from the same university as the new King of Google. It's backed by American seed fund Y Combinator based in Mountain View, Calif., which is where it is incubating as well.
The startup is planning to take its autonomous, lithium-ion battery powered, accident-safe, all-weather car to other markets such as amusement parks, retirement centers and small island spaces. "The unique advantage this strategy gives us is that we are able to mobilize the shuttles now instead of waiting for the next five or 10 years for laws to get through," Gupta tells Tech Crunch.
And he's right. Because the spaces the driverless shuttle would potentially be expanding to are privately owned and small scale, they bypass any complex government regulation. But this is just one of the many problems autonomous vehicles pose. The most important one – safety.
For Gupta the goal has always been safety and efficiency. From an engineering and robotics standpoint, figuring out how to get passengers from point A to point B quickly and safely posed a big challenge.
As a response, Gupta's team has attempted to develop a 3-dimensional mapping system to help their shuttle navigate road topography with caution and fluidity. The vehicle is also equipped with a GPS system, multilayered scanners, automotive-grade radar, and a long-range camera.
In theory, passengers would be able to enter their destination using a touchscreen or through a mobile app. The company is working with two models that could be used in different environments, depending on need. With a growing demand for low-cost, efficient Uber-like transportation services in a variety of contexts, there is a lot of room (but little time) to think creatively about these problems and how they could evolve.
The autonomous shuttle car is available for preorder and is scheduled for launch in 2016. Soon, there will be no excuse to be late to that 9 a.m.