Under the hood of Navya’s Autonom Cab
EE Times asked Liyes Haddad, Navya’s industrial director responsible for production of Navya’s vehicles, about the basic building blocks of the Autonom Cab. The vehicle contains six cameras, 10 lidar sensors, four radars, two GNSS antennae, V2X (DSRC-based), 4G cellular modem.
Valeo supplied its 145° lidars capable of seeing a distance greater than 200 meters (7 units per vehicle) and radar sensor technologies, while Velodyne offered its VLP lidars, which can provide 360° view (3 units per vehicle).
Valeo’s Scala sensors (Photo: Navya)
The Autonom Cab’s computing platform is based on that of Nvidia. Haddad said that Navya switched the platform (originally supplied by Valeo) to Nvidia this year when the companies met at CES. In the Autonom Shuttle, Navya used no radars, but now the Autonom Cab comes with four. The Shuttle used only 8 lidars, but the Cab uses 10, added Hadda.
Given that Navya’s autonomous shuttle experience is its claim to fame, we asked what lessons Navya learned. Haddad noted, “Safety comes first, but more safety can be supported by embedded connected systems.”
By embedded connected systems, he refers to a 4G modem that allows Navya to not only record and report any troubles during a drive but to also run vehicle diagnostics. “We need to make sure all sensors are working properly and air conditioning inside a vehicle is set properly.”
He added, “We also learned the problems with doors.” Entry into and exit from an automated vehicle can pose a dilemma, he observed. “We had to be very careful counting the number of people going into a vehicle and those coming out.” Issues with city authorities?
Navya’s CEO, with a note of impatience, said that regulators and city authorities need to catch up with advancements in technology. Without the blessing of city leaders, Navya can’t even name the first site for its robo-taxi service. Navya’s press conference and its plan for experiments are geared up to flood the media and sway authorities to embrace highly automated vehicles on regular streets.
The situation in the United States, however, is a little different. Magney said, “Phoenix has an executive order to allow for the development and deployment of self-driving technologies. The executive order opened the door for pilot programs to enable companies to test self-driving car technology.” He added, “According to the executive order, vehicles must be monitored by a licensed driver, although the monitoring can be done from a remote location.”
Navya’s Sapet also noted that Autonom Cab will initially have a “driver” (with no steering wheel, but equipped with a switch). This, he said, is not because Autonom Cab can’t drive autonomously, “but because of the regulation.” Cost equation
According to Sapet, the cost of an Autonom Shuttle and an Autonom Cab isn’t far apart — between 250,000 and 260,000 euros per vehicle. It’s not cheap. Navya’s pitch is that a robo-taxi, which doesn’t do drugs and doesn’t get sick, will last seven years. Given that no drivers are needed, operators can lower the ride cost or choose to pocket the difference, said Sapet.
Of course, this argument does not consider what operators must pay to run remote control centers.
Navya’s Autonom Cab in Paris (Photo: Navya)
Unlike Waymo, whose focus until now is on development of its own software and hardware stack for highly automated vehicles, Navya’s business appears spread wide and perhaps thin.
Navya styles itself as a developer of intelligent autonomous cars, a manufacturer of autonomous vehicles and a service provider of a wide range of services including supervision, maintenance, and an application for passengers for a fully optimized mobility solution.
Navya currently has two production sites — one in Lyon and another in Saline, Michigan — for its autonomous vehicles. Noting the increased production capacity in Lyon prepared for the additional sales of Autonom Cab, the CEO said that the Saline facility may also produce Autonom Cab for the U.S. market. “We plan to make 1,000 autonomous vehicles within the next two years,” he added.
Magney noted, “Up until this point, Waymo and Navya have not really been direct competitors, in my opinion. It seems to me that Navya wants to be specialized player in AV vehicles that are optimized for public transport.”
However, he added, “Navya could move up from a niche player in autonomy, specializing in slow-moving shuttles not meant for public roads, up to a major player in the race toward completely driverless mobility services.”
In the following pages, we share what we saw at Navya’s press conference in Paris on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Next page: Autonom Cab unveiled