Vegas visitors can take semi-autonomous electric vehicles for a tour starting in 2023 • TechCrunch
Arcimotothe maker of three-wheeled electric Fun Utility Vehicles (FUVs), is partnering with Faction developing electric vehicles that can be delivered to a customer’s hotel through a combination of low-level autonomy and remote assistance technology. The tie-up is part of an upcoming pilot project in Las Vegas with GoCar Tours that will allow tourists to sightsee with Faction-powered FUVs.
Here’s how it will work: Arcimoto’s FUVs will be equipped with Faction’s suite of camera and radar sensors and its advanced Level 2+ driver assistance system, which handles tasks such as lane and collision avoidance. Vehicles will also have a tablet that offers GoCar’s GPS-guided tour of the Vegas Strip (GoCar eventually wants to expand this tour to include Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam). Vehicles will travel from the GoCar depot in the Arts District to various hotels along the Strip – a five-mile straight stretch of road with a 30-mile-per-hour speed limit. Tourists will then pick up the FUVs and drive them along the tour route at their own pace before dropping themselves and the vehicles off at their hotels, after which the FUVs will “drive” to the GoCar depot.
I use quotes around “behaving” for a reason. The Faction system can drive itself from A to B on a pre-determined route and knows to stop if it encounters an anomaly or a task it is unable to complete, such as an en route object or a turn left unprotected. But for judgment calls, he relies on the teleoperator. The teleoperator will remotely adjust the trajectory line that the vehicle follows to circumvent an object or enter a parking lot and give the execution order.
Arcimoto’s partnership with Faction and GoCar will initially involve around 20 vehicles starting in mid-2023, but the companies hope to expand the offering to an additional 290 vehicles in Vegas and other cities where GoCar operates, including San Francisco, San Diego and Barcelona.
Faction is a company that sees Level 5 autonomy as a research project at least a decade away from actual commercialization, and teleoperation as a necessary component to scaling autonomous fleets today. The startup is building its business with a focus on creating the “right-sized tech stack with right-sized vehicles”, which means Faction relies on a range of cameras, including a thermal camera and a radar to achieve basic levels of autonomy, rather than adapting. a vehicle with expensive lidar and the latest computing systems.
“Right now, our current vehicle systems cost less than $35,000,” Ain McKendrick, CEO and Founder of Faction, told TechCrunch. “We take an Arcimoto vehicle platform of around $17,000 and we put in around $12,000 to $13,000 of technology. We announced our partnership with Nvidia, but I don’t want their latest and greatest liquid-cooled Omniverse to require a trunk and a van to run. I want two generations back in their car-grade package that we can grow with.
McKendrick said the advantage of being a “second-wave autonomy company” is that Faction isn’t trying to solve every edge case at this time. When it comes to its partnership with Arcimoto and GoCar, Faction is simply trying to solve the problem of replacing the human who would otherwise deliver these vehicles to customer hotels.
“Our goal is to be profitable at the price of $2 per mile, not to have the promise that costs will be reduced in 10 years,” McKendrick said.
Besides the fancy aspect of having a passenger car drive to a customer’s hotel, GoCar is there for the potential savings of their business.
“We thought about the self-service model where people can come and use a vehicle and leave, and we used to have multiple locations, but the savings of having those multiple locations is tough because you don’t know where the customer is going to be,” Nathan Withrington, founder of GoCar, told TechCrunch. “We might have 10 cars available at one location and the other has a waiting list of 30 people. Then moving cars through the city and everything is a nightmare.
If customers can simply call a vehicle, where GoCar stores them becomes much less important. The company will get visibility of its cars right on the road, and it will be easier to clean and prep them when they are all accounted for.
GoCar has previously worked with Arcimoto to offer FUVs to tourists. Withrington says FUVs are the first type of electric vehicle the company has put into its fleet that can actually handle the range it needs, can cross bridges and is highway legal. Moreover, tourists love to drive them.
For Arcimoto, this partnership is a chance to expand its reach as a vehicle tourism offering, while building on its current partnership with Faction. The two started working together last year to build the D1a semi-autonomous delivery vehicle based on the FUV, and have been running pilots in the Bay Area since July, according to McKendrick.