College students may soon be taking autonomous shuttles from class to class and wherever else they need to go on campus. YC-backed Auro Robotics is currently testing their driverless shuttle system at several universities, and is actually beginning to deploy shuttles on the campus of Santa Clara University. The company is also planning to expand to other markets like amusement parks, retirement communities and small islands, with some projects in those spaces already set to take off “in the later part of this year.”
Auro has chosen to focus on these small, contained environments largely because they are controlled by private corporations, and thus are not subject to the heavy government regulation that Google and other companies are stuck behind with their driverless cars. “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 ten years for laws to get through,” Auro Robotics CEO Nalin Gupta said.
Gupta told me that the main challenge in designing an autonomous vehicle for these sort of areas is building one that can smartly and safely navigate heavy pedestrian traffic, something he said their team has been finessing for some time now. The team actually creates a three-dimensional map of the environments that they’re deploying the shuttles in, so that the vehicles can be as responsive and aware of their surroundings as possible.