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Michigan Will Build 25 Self-Driving Trolleys In 2017 (observer.com) 100

French trolley-maker Navya announced its first manufacturing facility in North America. The company will build a 20,000 square foot facility for the construction of its self-driving trolley, the Arma. "It aims to construct 25 vehicles there this year," reports Observer. "It has 45 vehicles deployed around the world already. These robots have a max speed of about 27 miles per hour, but typically travel more like 12 miles per hour (the speed of a typical bike ride). Each one can transport about 15 people." From the report: The plant will be built in Saline, Michigan, a suburban town just south of Ann Arbor with a population of less than 9,000. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates that the plant will support 50 new jobs. "As the greater Ann Arbor area continues to establish itself as a hub for autonomous vehicle development, we feel it's the perfect location for us. Strong government and community support for mobility initiatives combined with an excellent talent pool provide the ideal environment for our expansion in North America," Navya CEO Christophe Sapet said in a press release. "I have no doubt that they will become an important and valued member of our already stellar business community," Brian Marl, Saline's mayor, said in a release.
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Michigan Will Build 25 Self-Driving Trolleys In 2017

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  • That pretty much sums up the whole self driving car/bus/whatever market right now. There is zero gain not using a driver, in fact because of the reduced speeds and limited operational areas there is a lot to lose not having a human at the controls. Also I doubt not having to pay the miserable salary a bus driver pulls in any way offsets the huge upfront cost of these vehicles which will be out of date within a few years anyway.

    But hey, self driving, AI, shiny shiny!

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @07:12AM (#54838025)
      Autonomous driving allows us to put more vehicles in places where they may not be needed, or not very valuable. It could also allow more people to use a vehicle, and will likely create more uses like overnight driving (while sleeping in the car) instead of taking a plane, using a car as an office, having cars run errands (pick up) you'd otherwise bundle, etc. In short, it might put many more cars on the road, which will come with a cost of its own. Not saying this is bad overall, but its something that doesn't always get talked about when swooning over self driving tech.
      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        "t could also allow more people to use a vehicle, and will likely create more uses like overnight driving (while sleeping in the car) instead of taking a plane, using a car as an office"

        How does that differ in any way from using a human driven taxi?

        "having cars run errands (pick up) "

        Yeah sure, and they'll do your washing and make you dinner when they get back home too.

        • "t could also allow more people to use a vehicle, and will likely create more uses like overnight driving (while sleeping in the car) instead of taking a plane, using a car as an office"

          How does that differ in any way from using a human driven taxi?

          "having cars run errands (pick up) "

          Yeah sure, and they'll do your washing and make you dinner when they get back home too.

          I suppose it may happen, but I've never seen anyone send a taxi to pick up their laundry or dinner (an errand), and it would be prohibitively expensive to hire a taxi to drive you overnight or for most to work everyday.

          • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

            "it would be prohibitively expensive to hire a taxi to drive you overnight or for most to work everyday."

            What makes you think that when/if automated cars take over from taxis, the fares will be any lower? What would be the incentive once there's a captive market?

            • "it would be prohibitively expensive to hire a taxi to drive you overnight or for most to work everyday."

              What makes you think that when/if automated cars take over from taxis, the fares will be any lower?

              I never said they would be. But if you own an autonomous car, I don't think its a stretch to think it would be much cheaper to have it drive you somewhere overnight than to hire a taxi to drive you overnight.

            • Because the taxi industry currently has high barriers to entry. Autonomous vehicles reduce them. Specifically Taxi drivers have to have rigorous background checks (for good reason), this acts as a huge block. You need to hire someone to drive at undesirable times, another huge block. Thirdly you have to have a vehicle specifically for Taxi driving, another huge block.

              Now with an autonomous vehicle and a nice easy app to join.....say....uber.... I can easily start my own taxi business with little to no effort. Say I work a classical 9-5. Maybe I get up a little early and get in to work at 7:45. Send my autonomous car out from 8:00 to 10:30 while doing my day job. I take in a nice $50 + gas and mileage. Now say I want to go out Friday and Saturday night. I can still do that and send my autonomous taxi out while I am out in the bars. If I am lucky maybe my car will pay for my drinks.

              The ease of entering the market now with autonomous cars will theoretically push the price of a taxi to the marginal cost

    • I'm guessing these aren't the type of trolleys you push around the shops.
      • I'm guessing these aren't the type of trolleys you push around the shops.

        Probably not, but I want an automated trolley next time I buy groceries... that would be pretty cool. Pointless, but cool.

      • I assumed it meant trolleybus. They're a weird hybrid of a tram and a regular bus.

        I've ever actually seen one, I've only heard of them because I had a children's book with one as a character.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      I'll bet you defended the elevator operators against automation, too.
      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        A lift just goes up and down in its own exclusive shaft. In terms of automation its a trivial task that can be implemented with simple relays and solenoids, never mind computers. Driving is not a trivial task and humans still outperform any kind of self driving AI in an unknown crowded enviroment. The only reason to roll this out is to say "Look who cutting edge we are! We've got our finger on the pulse of technology!". Its marketing BS for suckers.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          "humans still outperform any kind of self driving AI in an unknown crowded enviroment."

          Somehow, I don't think that's the target market for 12 mph trolleys. I'm thinking more of airports or other locations where there's a fixed route, and possibly even dedicated lanes in places.
          • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

            Airports already have shuttle buses and people movers which are far quicker. And if a route is fixed with a reserved ROI then lay some guiderails and ditch the AI.

            • Are you just being a troll or do you really not see the obvious scenarios where it would be a cost advantage to eliminate a 50k a year cost(driver) by replacing it with an autonomous vehicle? Or are you proposing we just send the buses down a bumper car bowling lane with no driver? My guess is you see some edge cases in a technology which will prevent it from being useful in very specific situations, but are wasting everyone's time by pretending those edge cases block the application of the technology in ev
          • by bano ( 410 )

            Trolleys always operate on a fixed route.

    • There is zero gain not using a driver, in fact because of the reduced speeds and limited operational areas there is a lot to lose not having a human at the controls.

      This is why the first bus routes which will be replaced with self-driving vans will be on college campuses and the like. The low speed will not inhibit their activity. At some times of day, there are empty (or mostly empty) buses rolling around campuses because they might have to pick up a passenger.

      • >> At some times of day, there are empty (or mostly empty) buses rolling around campuses because they might have to pick up a passenger.

        This is also why last-century busses and their static routes should be retired in favor of ride-sharing almost everywhere they exist. A lot of mid-sized cities have already figured this out for elderly and low-income transportation - skipping past the "bus" generation and right to subsidized taxis...er...I mean "ride sharing."
        • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

          People don't want to share the cars they've paid good $$$$ for with complete strangers unless there's a very tempting cash advantage. Something the tech evangelists in their silicon valley castles tend to forget.

          • I'm right with you there - when self-driving is real, I plan on buying my own car.

            However, subsidized taxi services for low-income citizens using shared cars/vans are real and (thankfully) growing. Hopefully the bus/trolley trend of the last century is over.
    • What technological improvement in the last 2000 years doesn't fit that?

      • Modern medicine. Modern food distribution services. Indoor Heating. Water purification. Lion Bars.

        I would say all "needs" rather than "because they can". Without any of the above you're quite likely to die a much earlier death... ... well maybe man can live without having Lion Bars- but what pointless dreary existence would that be.

    • by tempmpi ( 233132 )

      You need more than a single driver per vehicle. The driver will operate 40h per week, but your bus service is likely operating something such as 7*16h=112h per week and the bus driver can't drive 8h straight without breaks. Even at minimum wage the cost for 3-4 drivers is pretty significant. Within a single year you be able to get back the extra money required for expensive sensors, compute modules and software.

      Out of date also doesn't really matter as long as it can still do its job. This first generation

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        "While bus drivers will lose their job, new jobs will be created elsewhere, e.g.: When people save money by not owning a car, they will likely spend that money elsewhere, e.g.: eating at restaurants more often."

        I love the way people like you handwavingly dismiss the loss of jobs and pretend they'll be replaced on a 1:1 basis. They won't , and as for working as a waiter in a restaurant, yeah, I'm sure every bus and truck driver just dreams of that stellar position.

        There is no advantage to the public transpor

    • Bus drivers in NYC make $75,000 + not counting benefits.
    • I disagree on the self-driving cars. While it's an extremely difficult (and expensive) technical challenge at this point, it seems to be getting closer to a tipping point. Google is a lot farther a lot faster than I thought they would.

      At some point I believe that it will make driving safer overall, that it will both come down in cost and reduce auto insurance rates enough to pay for itself, and that it will provide better mobility options to handicapped or elderly drivers that have difficulty driving (or dr

    • That's probably true vs market rates, but when government employees are driving those buses it's a different story.

    • by syn3rg ( 530741 )
      Please don't leave graft out of the equation: which vendor will get the no-bid contract, and to whom to they donate re-election funds?
    • There is zero gain not using a driver,

      I guess that depends on where you live. In Paris, when the Metro drivers go on strike -- and I do mean when, not if -- the Metro lines that are automated can still run. One of those is Line 1, which connects the business district with the city of Paris and runs parallel to Line A, which is not automated and is the busiest subway line in all of Europe.

      Granted, this situation doesn't apply everywhere, but that's kind of the point -- you're concluding that automation can't make sense by excluding the cases whe

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Who's responsibility will it be if someone gets hurt? So there will be no human operator to ensure if the automation fails that no one gets, for example, ran over?

    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      More to the point, humans are extremely adept at modifying their behavior to nullify safety and exploit weaknesses in systems. Unless the system accounts for that, it will fail.
    • Sounds like a Trolley Problem http://imgur.com/gallery/pKEMa [imgur.com]

    • Who's responsibility will it be if someone gets hurt?

      Who's responsible now? Hint: unless the driver is impaired (e.g. by alcohol or other drugs), the answer is an insurance company.

      So there will be no human operator to ensure if the automation fails that no one gets, for example, ran over?

      What is there that ensures that if the human operator fails that no one gets run over?

  • 'trolley' ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChunderDownunder ( 709234 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:27AM (#54837931)

    Sorry for growing up in the wrong hemisphere but I'm just confused by the American usage of the word 'trolley'.

    It just looks like a 'mini-bus' to me.

    • Sorry for growing up in the wrong hemisphere but I'm just confused by the American usage of the word 'trolley'.

      It just looks like a 'mini-bus' to me.

      Same, we push trollies around the shops where I'm from.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It doesn't even seem to fit the American English definition. A trolley is either a wheeled device you push around, or short for trolleybus which is a vehicle powered by overhead electric cabling. The latter is usually on rails, or at least guided, so that it doesn't wonder away from its source of power.

      This thing appears to be an electric bus. A fairly small one. The manufacturer doesn't describe it as a trolley.

      • A trolley is either a wheeled device you push around, or short for trolleybus which is a vehicle powered by overhead electric cabling. The latter is usually on rails, or at least guided, so that it doesn't wonder away from its source of power.

        We (people on the street) don't call that a "trolleybus" in America, we just call it a bus. The transit departments call them trolleybuses, though. And AFAIK the last place they're actually still in use in any number is San Francisco, and they are very much not on rails. Sometimes the bus drivers DO get out from under the pantograph, and another bus has to come along to fix the situation. The bus drivers in SF are particularly bad at driving, or at caring about other humans. I've never been so brutally cut

        • We also have them in Boston :( The locals call them part of the "T" or the subway...... The locals don't actually know what functioning subway is.
        • Boston actually has some of each. The Green Line (which is part of the subway system, though it goes above ground outside of downtown) is on rails and has overhead wires, and a few of the bus routes that go out from the Harvard University campus have overhead wires but drive on regular streets.
      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        Yeah, after looking at the pictures, those are more like small buses, which we often call shuttle buses.

        But, trolley is often used to refer to something similar which is styled like a traditional overhead-wire electric trolley - often with open-air windows and used for sight-seeing or short loop shuttle service.

        Like these: Image 1 [louisvilletrolley.com] Image 2 [livermorewinetrolley.com]

        Note that a trolley differs from a streetcar - the latter runs on rails.
    • Sorry for growing up in the wrong hemisphere but I'm just confused by the American usage of the word 'trolley'.

      It just looks like a 'mini-bus' to me.

      I was thinking it would be great to walk around Tesco and have my trolley drive itself! Frees up my arms for loading it up with groceries.

    • Sorry for growing up in the wrong hemisphere

      As you should be! All that sun and those attractive women while we have rain, snow and chavvy women... you bastard!

    • Sorry for growing up in the wrong hemisphere but I'm just confused by the American usage of the word 'trolley'.

      It just looks like a 'mini-bus' to me.

      Don't worry, this Michigander is also confused by the usage. We would just call it a bus.

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      In American mass transportation circles, a 'trolley' is usually a vehicle on tracks that handles urban transit. It's not a 'train' that travels at higher speeds between cities, and it's not a bus which has rubber tires suitable for public roads. It is said that those rubber tires do as much damage to the roads as 1,000 cars.

      In San Diego there are bright red buses that are shaped like trolleys and visit all the local attractions. Tourists are expected to find them inviting and similar to the transit trolleys

    • This thing isn't a trolley by American usage, either.

  • This delusion of language really bothers me. These aren't trolleys, they are simply buses. We've had self-driving trains and trams for ages, that's not such a big deal. They can only go where the tracks take them. The automaton consists of starting, stopping, and presumably automatically detecting obstacles. Not particularly exciting. This disgusting company is just trying to confuse the language to generate buzz for their products.

    • by hackel ( 10452 )

      Okay I need to take this back. The Company, Navya, is not disgusting at all. They refer to their ARMA devices as "fully autonomous shuttle vehicles." It's Brady Dale and The Observer that are killing the English language. Fuck you, Brady.

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