A Coast Autonomous P-1 cruised down 47th Street, paused and turned back in the opposite direction toward 48th. Though Coast CTO Pierre Lefevre manually started each leg of a trip with an Xbox Elite controller, the P-1 navigated the rest all own its own. This test trip showed the possibility for a commercial driverless bus to take to the streets of New York. The P-1 is basically a big, self-enclosed golf cart with massive tinted windows and scoots around bi-directionally. Benches hug the sides, as roof-mounted grab rails hang above you. Coast says up to 20 people can fit inside but that means there would be some standing. 10 or 12 people would fit more comfortably inside. There are no seatbelts, but considering the shuttle only goes up to 15 to 20 mph at the most, this should not be a problem. Each autonomous can run between 10 and 12 hours on a single charge, and can charge on inductive panels at the end of the day.

As the city’s subway infrastructure is falling apart and the rise of inexpensive ride-sharing services is clogging the streets, autonomous could be the answer. This won’t be anytime soon what with lengthy contract negotiations with local governments, the question to what paths these shuttles would use and how to stop collisions with the people who pop out unexpectedly. Both ends of the P-1 are kitted out with LiDAR for object detection and collision avoidance. Two camera arrays ensure the vehicle can see the stop lights and traffic signs. Also Coast needs to come up with a way for people to pay for these rides.

The smart cars are coming, maybe just not that soon