Optimus Ride wins DOE funding for university campus trials

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Optimus Ride, in collaboration with US institutions Clemson University, UC Berkeley and Argonne National Laboratory, has been selected for a DOE grant of up to US$4.3m to deploy one of the largest autonomous fleets in the USA and conduct critical AV research.

Optimus Ride is set to provide mobility services for students, faculty, staff and visitors at Clemson University and conduct research on the interplay of sustainability, rider behavior and autonomous vehicles (AV). The Department of Energy (DOE) grant will, say the partners, allow for one of the largest deployments of autonomous shuttles in the USA over a three year period.

The deployment is part of the DOE’s US$60m effort to fund 24 research and development projects aimed at decarbonizing the transportation sector and reducing CO2  emissions from passenger cars and light- and heavy-duty trucks. Optimus Ride is the sole AV company selected by the DOE.

The project will see up to 10 Optimus Ride shuttles deployed at Clemson University with the goal of studying a number of different research areas related to sustainability and low-speed, electric AVs. These will include analyzing rider behavior and adoption and examining the potential sustainability impact autonomous vehicles can have when deployed on a single campus and at scale. Optimus Ride will also analyze its routes, vehicle performance, sustainability benchmarks and other data to continue to refine its shuttle service and further advance its autonomous vehicle technology.

Specifically, Clemson University and Argonne National Laboratory will focus on the measurement and verification of energy and sustainability benefits, representing one of the first large-scale, real-world efforts of this kind. The researchers at UC Berkeley will concentrate on behavioral change and transportation mode shifting by riders to support a better understanding of how to encourage drivers into alternative and more environmentally friendly forms of transportation. Additionally, Clemson University will explore how to optimize autonomous vehicle operations for increased efficiency.

The partners note that college campuses represent a unique opportunity to deploy and study AV technologies given the constrained geography and unique transportation needs. They provide real world test environments, not just test tracks, to collect usable data and further prove out the sustainability, efficiency and economic value of AV technology.

Clemson University is considered an ideal campus, not only because of its long history of automotive research as represented by the International Center for Automotive Research, but also because it hosts over 25,000 students on a 1,400 acre campus and has significant transportation needs.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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