Recent appearances in Los Angeles at the CoMotion and AutoMobilityLA events highlighted StreetDrone’s plans to expand into the USA. During the events, the Oxford, UK-based, full-service autonomy specialist issued a thought paper addressing some of the systemic issues confronted by cities, transit authorities and delivery companies seeking to implement the autonomous transportation trials for which StreetDrone produces vehicles.
The company has focused its expertise in ‘zone 1’ restrictive urban environments and has conducted multiple public trials with transit authorities in city-center locations worldwide, including central London. Recently, Wayve secured a Series A funding round after proving its concept using a StreetDrone-built Renault Twizy. Now, having already sold 15 cars for use in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia, the company is setting its sights on the US market.
“The USA is very important to us,” said James Murray, StreetDrone’s business development executive, speaking exclusively to AVI at AutoMobilityLA. “We see it as a key stepping-stone to the growth of our company just as much as we see it as an interesting market with a unique set of challenges to explore.
“We’ve had some exciting conversations with cities, companies, racetracks and other people who are interested in either the Twizy variant or our new Nissan e-NV200,” he continued. “They’re interested in mobility and where autonomy fits into their mix of transport alongside Lyft or Uber, for example. They’d use our systems to learn how that works.
“We want to sell vehicles in the USA, run trials for cities and expand our ecosystem on the open-source front. The more contributors we have to that, the faster everyone else grows as well. By having cars in different global markets, we’re gathering a lot more data from many more diverse sources than perhaps any of the other larger companies.”
StreetDrone built its first Nissan e-NV200-based autonomous electric van this summer. Its bigger dimensions enable it to carry more equipment than the Twizy, use more sensors to gather more data, and carry passengers as well. Like the Twizy, the drive-by-wire e-NV200 comes with an enterprise version of the Autoware open-source software, “so that customers can start using their autonomous vehicle almost from day one,” according to Murray.
“We don’t do anything that isn’t automotive-grade safe,” he added. “Any validated systems that have been installed by the OEM, we leave alone. On the Nissan van there are various ADAS systems that we don’t touch, which provides an intrinsic level of safety.”