Does Future Mobility Include LSVs?

GEM has been the market leader in LSVs for many years.

The falling cost of batteries and rise of autonomous driving technology has launched a new stage in the development of mobility technologies. These advances may be bad news for LSVs. For decades small-task oriented vehicles, and in particular by golf cars, have dominated the EV market in terms of production volume. Long before Tesla, golf car manufacturers produced hundreds of thousands of electric golf cars annually. Primarily for these vehicles were for golf courses, but for personal transportation as well. In addition, the large volume of used electric golf cars coming off of golf courses each year were finding their way into the personal transportation and utility markets. In smaller volumes they produced electric powered burden carriers and general utility vehicles for use in enclosed spaces such as factories and warehouses.

Speed and pricing hurt LSV adoption

Federal regulations in the late nineties lead to the development of Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs), originally referred to as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs). The LSV classification created the opportunity to move small EVs out of gated and golf communities and relatively confined driving environments and onto public roads in large numbers. Unfortunately, for LSV manufacturers, the widespread adoption of LSVs for personal transportation has never occurred. In theory, LSVs would be a good choice as a second vehicle. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate and suitable for the short trips typical of many drivers. In practice, they are relatively expensive for their limited functionality, and to many they look like a glorified golf car.

With a 25 mph top speed, LSVs are too slow for real life driving where speeds are often 30-45 mph. Federal authorities, already concerned about LSV safety, are unwilling to compromise on safety requirements for higher speed Medium Speed Vehicles. The additional safety requirements for MSVs would make these vehicles relatively expensive compared to fully highway capable vehicles.

Pricing has always been an issue with LSVs, which typically cost around $10,000 on the low end. They find themselves competing against new, used and refurbished golf cars that can cost thousands of dollars less or comparably priced, but heavily customized golf cars. On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest priced highway capable vehicles available do not cost that much more and offer far greater functionality. As a result, the LSV market has never “taken off”. SVR’s research has shown that LSVs for personal use have only gained traction where local laws restrict the use of golf cars on public roads. The trend has been for local governments to allow more golf cars, modified golf cars and even UTVs on local roads.

Where LSV have found some success is on college and corporate campuses. In these environments the LSV safety features are worth the additional expense in the context of insurance and liability. The slower speed is another plus where administrators do not want employees speeding across pedestrian filled campus grounds. The utility LSV has proven to provide plenty of functionality and mobility in these confined environments at a reduced cost compared to pick-up trucks which they often replace. In addition, electric LSVs fit well into sustainability and green initiatives on these campuses.

Electric bikes and scooters offer an alternative

New battery and autonomous driving technologies are unlikely to change the fate of LSVs, and likely will make it worse. Batteries are becoming small enough, powerful enough and cheap enough to create new competitors to LSVs. Namely, a rash of electric bicycles and electric scooters have been entering the market. While costing thousands of dollars, electric bicycles have the potential to chip away at some of the LSV market. Have a short commute on local roads and don’t need to carry much with you. Why not use an electric bike? Need a quick way around urban areas and don’t want to worry about parking? How about an electric scooter.

There are electric bike and scooter sharing programs either already operating or in pilot programs in major cities. These options aren’t ideal in bad weather or for multiple passengers, but they can potentially reduce LSV usage. In fact, they may even provide competition to golf cars and Personal Transportation Vehicles (PTVs) within gated communities.

Autonomous vehicles take a new direction

May Mobility self-driving GEM

GEM configured by May Mobility for self-driving.

Similarly autonomous driving technology may very well reduce the potential footprint for LSVs. Google has used some LSVs for the testing of their autonomous driving technology.  You could argue from a standpoint of safety that the more controlled environment of gated communities could be a good entry point for the technology. But it appears the major players are starting with highway capable vehicles. There have been some instances of LSVs with the technology being tested for limited use scenarios such as shuttle runs. Currently, the relative expense of the autonomous driving technology compared to the cost of an LSV is likely too high. The economics favor installation on premium vehicles or rental/sharing fleets with the flexibility for high volume usage.

Nuro autonomous vehicle

This Fall Kroger will be using passengerless autonomous vehicles from startup Nuro to deliver groceries to customers.

Starship Technologies Delivery Robot

Starship Technologies is rolling out a robotic delivery service on college and corporate campuses this year.

Even in the commercial use of LSVs or their slightly faster cousins in Europe for tasks like urban delivery, autonomous driving technology may undercut the application of these vehicles. There are a number of startups developing autonomous delivery vehicles for operation on streets. However, they are passenger less or even smaller and slower for use on sidewalks. The last vestige for the LSV may remain the college or corporate campus, but even the autonomous shuttle could cut into some of that usage. We may be witnessing the highpoint for the use of LSVs right now.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

 

 

Road Use Regulation Roundup: June 2018

golf cart signThe following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels since January, 2018.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • This roundup saw more legislation related to allowing LSVs on roads as opposed to golf cars and ATVs/UTVs but it is too early to tell if this represents a long term trend and reversal of previous legislative trends favoring golf cars and UTVs.
  • Of special note is legislation in California that is focusing on the development of a regional multi-city plan for LSV transportation. I believe this is the first time a regional approach has been covered in the roundup.
  • Most of the legislative activity occurred in the Midwest and Southeast.

Highland Village, TX – The City Council approved an ordinance allowing the use of NEVs, LSVs and golf cars in the city with certain restrictions.

Myrtle Beach, SC – The City Council passed an ordinance requiring businesses that rent golf cars to get $10 tags on each vehicle.

Glendale, MO – City officials passed an ordinance allowing golf cars to be used on city streets provided they have certain safety features.

Bay St. Louis & Waveland, MS – The state passed legislation that allows the use of LSVs on certain city streets.

Oxford, MS – The owner of a local LSV taxi service requested that the city lower the minimum driving age of such vehicles from 21 years old to address a driver shortage. They lowered it to 20 years old.

Audubon, IA – City Supervisors will likely pass an ordinance allowing the use of ATVs/UTVs on county roads if they have certain safety features.

Newport, RI – The City Council passed an ordinance allowing the use of electric LSVs on local roads.

SanDiego, CA – State legislation is being considered that would allow the use of LSVs on a county wide basis. The legislation, backed by North County cities, would allow for the implementation of regional LSV transportation plans.

Cincinnati, OH – The City Council passed an ordinance creating a three year pilot program for the use of LSVs in the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods.

Augusta, GA – The City Commission is considering an ordinance that will allow the use of personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) in the central business district. They would initially be used to provide prearranged tours as opposed to taxi service, and could eventually lead to PTV permits for individual owners.

Sanibel Island, FL – The City Council denied the application for the opening of a seven vehicle LSV rental business citing concerns about traffic, safety and the concept being inconsistent with city planning aimed at reducing auto ridership.

Planned Development Communities As Incubators For Future Mobility

Eli Zero NEV

The new Eli Zero NEV from Eli Electric Vehicles is expected to reach market in late 2018 and is positioned as an urban transportation solution and future mobility concept.

My colleague Stephen Metzger recently wrote a piece on how gated communities could serve as an excellent incubator for testing future mobility systems. These systems include on-demand vehicles, self-driving and autonomous driving technology, ride-sharing systems, and new public transport options. Future mobility concepts typically feature electric vehicles being used in urban environments. He argues that the urban environment presents a myriad of obstacles and complexities for future mobility to overcome and solve, but gated communities offer a simpler but still useful testing ground for future mobility concepts.

Some of the advantages for gated communities include:

  • A better planned transportation environment into which mobility concepts can more easily be introduced
  • Population already using or conditioned to small, electric vehicles like golf cars and LSVs
  • Portion of the population that cannot drive themselves and could benefit from greater mobility

The article concludes with some examples of new small, electric vehicles with an eye towards future mobility that are entering or trying to break into the market.

Learn more:  Smallvehicleresource.com

 

Tropos Motors Unveils Electric Utility Vehicles

Topos Motors ABLE FRV f

The Tropos Motors ABLE FRV fire response vehicle.

Tropos Motors, a distributor of Cenntro Metro low-speed electric vehicles and trucks, is now manufacturing their own vehicles under the ABLE brand. Their first vehicles include the ABLE FRV, a fire response vehicle, and the ABLE EMS, an emergency medical service vehicle. The latter comes in an open or contained configuration.

The ABLE FRV features a 125 gallon skid unit tank, electric rewind Hannay series reel and Scotty Around the Pump class A foam system with 5 gallon foam cell. The electric powertrain includes a 10 kW/13 hp motor and a 72V DC power system with gel lead acid batteries. The rear wheel drive vehicle can put out up to 752 ft. lbs of torque. The ABLE FRV has an adjustable top speed of 25 mph to 35 mph for on road use and 40+ mph top speed off-road. Other specifications include:

  • Power steering
  • Four wheel disc brakes
  • Reinforced ABS bodywork
  • 14″ alloy wheels
  • Halogen headlights and LED signal lights
  • 157 inch turning radius
  • 78″ height that allows access to most parking garages, factories and warehouses
  • Kimtek Firelite Transport Deluxe
  • 9 hp electric start water pump
  • 100 foot Mercedes Boostlite hose
  • 20 foot suction hose
  • Fully enclosed tool box area
  • 1/4 turn ball valves
  • Power Hose Retract
  • AM/FM bluetooth USB stereo
  • Heater/Defroster
  • Back-up camera
Tropos Motors ABLE EMS

The new electric powered ABLE EMS from Tropos Motors.

The ABLE EMS can carry one patient on a full-size, standard ambulance stretcher and one EMS attendant in the bed area. The bed area has a lockable storage box, can accommodate a range of stretcher locking mechanisms and features additional security straps for rugged terrain use. Like the ABLE FRS the electric powertrain includes a 10 kW/13 hp motor and a 72V DC power system with gel lead acid batteries. The rear wheel drive vehicle can put out up to 752 ft. lbs of torque and has a top speed of 25 mph to 35 mph for street legal use or 40+ mph for off-road use. Other specs and features include:

  • 2-person open or enclosed cab
  • Power steering
  • Four wheel disc brakes
  • Reinforced ABS bodywork
  • 14″ alloy wheels
  • Extended rear bumper
  • Halogen headlights and LED signal lights
  • Kimtek MEDLITE Transport
  • 3-position jumper seat with seatbelt
  • Railing stainless grab bars
  • Diamond plate flooring
  • Sliding rear window
  • 2 lbs ABC fire extinguisher
  • 692 lbs payload capacity

The ABLE product line features the Tropos Motors Easy-Swap bed platform system that allows for the customer to switch between different bed packages and customize the vehicle to their specific applications. Easy-Swap bed packages include the:

  • Pickup package with an all aluminum pickup truck style bed with three drop down sides, corrugated flooring and 1,100 lbs payload capacity.
  • Trades package with “Rack-it” brand lumber rack, strap tie downs, aluminum diamond plate flooring, built-in lumber bed side inserts and 1,100 lbs payload capacity.
  • Cargo package with an 123 cubic foot enclosed cargo box with curb side hinged swing door, fully gasketed doors with stainless steel latches and hinges, aluminum diamond plate flooring and 1,100 lbs payload capacity.

Learn more:  Troposmotors.com and PRnewswire.com

Eli Electric Vehicles Launches Eli Zero NEV

Eli Zero NEV

The new Eli Zero NEV from Eli Electric vehicles is expected to reach market in late 2018.

Eli Electric Vehicles is launching a new NEV, the Eli Zero, with the intention to”…fundamentally shift how people engage with modern communities and urban environments.” The company, which is co-headquartered in Long Beach, CA and Beijing, China where the vehicles are manufactured, is now taking reservations for the Eli Zero. The plan is to deliver the first 100 vehicles by the end of 2018. The first 100 customers reserving a vehicle will receive a discount of $2,200 off the expected MSRP of $9,900 to $10,900. The vehicles are targeting the urban mobility space. The base model is expected to have a 55 mile range and the Plus model with a larger battery will have an 85 mile range. The Eli Zero will be using Samsung 18650 lithium cells in the battery pack. Like all NEVs the top speed is limited to 25 mph. Key features of the Eli Zero include:

  • 2-passenger seating plus cargo area behind the seats
  • AC asynchronous motor
  • 48V system
  • 6.0 kWh or 8.3 kWh battery packs
  • Toyota MCU
  • Vehicle Management System that monitors data, malfunctions and energy optimization
  • High-tensile aluminum frame
  • Doors made from a single sheet of thermoplastic-reinforced tempered glass
  • 877 lb/904 lb curb weight for the Base/Plus models
  • Four wheel disk brakes
  • Regenerative braking
  • Cruise control
  • Wide field of vision from the drivers position
  • 24 ft. turning circle
  • Driver proximity detection system to automatically unlock doors
  • LED signal lighting
  • Sunroof
  • Anti-theft system
  • Press to start
  • Multi-function dashboard control dial and LED dashboard display
  • Bluetooth
  • Radio
  • Heat and AC and Defrost
  • Adjustable driver’s seat

Learn more:  NewAtlas.com and Eli.world.

SVR’s Take:  The Eli Zero appears to be a step above the current NEVs on the market in terms of technology and design. The question is whether that is appealing enough to enough consumers. NEVs have consistently fallen short of market expectations in the consumer segment even though a strong argument can be made for their use based on efficiency, appropriateness for urban mobility, size and impact on the environment. An issue in the urban environment is that if a consumer can only own one car will they make it an NEV limited to low speed roads when they can spend several thousand dollars more and have a more versatile highway capable vehicle.

In gated, summer or other communities with widespread use of lower speed vehicles, NEVs are typically the most expensive option. Other available options include used golf cars, refurbished golf cars and new golf cars which can all be customized to a fairly high degree for the same price as an NEV or be equipped with less and cost significantly less. A large swath of that market elects to own less expensive golf cars. From my experience, NEVs have been most successful in these types communities where local regulations are most restrictive regarding the use of golf cars. Perhaps the design and tech of the Eli Zero will have enough appeal to make it a primary choice in a wider range of communities.

In the urban environment NEVs will more likely have a greater appeal where their is a shared fleet of vehicles. In this situation the consumer isn’t making an ownership choice but a ride choice. Do they really need to ride in a highway capable vehicle for a short intra-city trip or will a NEV, likely for a lower cost, be more than sufficient and better for the environment?

Marc Cesare, SVR

Garia Golf Car Inspired By Mercedes Benz Style Premieres

Garia Golf Car Mecedes-Benz Style

The Garia Golf Car inspired by Mercedes-Benz Style is now available in limited edition release.

Garia aluminum rims

14″ black aluminum wheels with diamond-cut elements add style.

outdoor touchpad

The 10″ outdoor touchpad display is paired with bluetooth connectivity.

Under the moniker “The coolest golf car ever”, Garia premiered their Garia Golf Car inspired by Mercedes Benz Style at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. Priced at $73,000, the two-seat Golf Car is the height of luxury and available for a limited edition release.

What makes a $73,000 golf car? You can start with unique styling unlike any other golf car that is a product of Garia’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz. This includes 14″, five spoke, black aluminum rims with diamond cut elements, uniquely designed headlights, carbon fiber accents, as well as Garia and Mercedes-Benz Style logos prominently placed around the vehicle.

The vehicle is handmade including hand-stitched leather “lounge” seats and Mansory carbon fiber parts like the black leather lined roof.The electric powertrain features a 10.24 kWh lithium battery pack good for a 50 mile range and a 70 km/hr top speed that can be limited to 25 mph to meet LSV regulations. For electronics the Golf Car features a 10.1″ outdoor touch screen that displays the scoreboard, bluetooth connection with hands-free streaming, and speakers in the roof and seat interior. Other amenities include a built-in refrigerator, water-proof leather, grab handles, dual size cup-holders and a tray for golf balls and tees. If you are interested, a $1,000 deposit is required to place an order. Learn more: Garia.com

SVR’s Take:  While I’m sure Garia would be happy to sell a bunch of these golf cars that’s not really the point. They are trying to fortify their image as not only a luxury golf car manufacturer but as THE luxury golf car manufacturer. In addition, the design pushes the concept of the golf car away from traditional golf cars and more towards automobiles. With the future of transportation alternatives in flux, this could be helpful in positioning Garia vehicles more towards the personal transportation end of the spectrum as opposed to the golf car end. If niches develop for lower speed urban transportation would you want a vehicle that looks like a golf car or an automobile? From a more current standpoint, elements from the Golf Car will likely find their way into some of Garia’s other lower-priced but still luxurious golf cars.

Marc Cesare, SVR

NHTSA Finalizes Quiet-Car Rule for EVs

Garia LSV In NYC

Street legal Garia on the streets of New York City. LSVs will need to incorporate alert sounds by the end of 2020 according to NHTSA’s finalized “quiet car” ruling.

NHTSA has finalized the quiet car rule that will apply to electric vehicles and hybrids including low speed vehicles. The rule requires EVs and other quiet cars like hybrids to emit alert sounds to warn pedestrians of their approach at low speeds. Vehicles will have to emit sounds when they are moving at speeds of up to 18.6 mph (30 km/hr). Some automakers had pushed for a lower speed threshold of 20 km/hr.

Originally the rule was to be implemented by September 2019 when automakers would have to have 50% of the vehicles equipped with the sounds. After a review by the Trump administration the implementation date has been pushed back by a year to 2020, a full decade since Congress first passed the relevant law. NHTSA expects the rules to prevent 2,400 injuries annually. It is possible that NHTSA will allow manufacturers to provide multiple sounds from which consumers to choose. Learn more:  Reuters.com

SVR’s Take:  This could prove to be an annoying regulation in many campus or gated community settings where LSVs are prevalent. They will likely continuously be making noises since most of their travel around campuses or communities will likely be under the speed threshold. There is the possibility that constantly hearing the alerts could de-sensitize pedestrians to the alerts and negate the intended safety effects. Another unintended consequence is that drivers may want to drive more quickly to keep the vehicle over the threshold speed to avoid triggering the alert.

Marc Cesare, SVR

Road Use Regulation Roundup: January 2018

golf cart sign

The following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels in 2017.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • After Ohio state officials passed a LSV law municipalities in the state are now passing local ordinances.
  • A number of municipalities are considering or now allowing the use of LSVs for taxi services.
  • Many of the regulations being passed or considered involve both golf cars and LSVs as opposed to just LSVs.
  • Some of the regulations being considered or passes involve allowing UTVs, ATVs and/or mini-trucks on public roads.
  • Some municipalities are reviewing ordinances because of various safety concerns related to the use of golf cars, UTVs, etc.

Malinta, OH – The village council discussed an ordinance allowing golf cars to be operated on public roads.

Bowling Green, OH – The Bowling Green City Council approved an ordinance allowing golf cars to be used on certain low speed city streets with a speed limit of 25 mph or less. The vehicles must be registered and titled,  and possess state-mandated safety equipment.

Garden City, KS – The Garden City Commission passed an ordinance to allow utility vehicles to operate on certain city streets. A previous ordinance allowing mini-trucks on the streets inadvertently left out utility vehicles.

Sanibel-Captiva Island, FL – The City Council denied a permit to allow a business to locate a low-speed vehicle rental service because of a concern over having adequate parking space.

Waterloo, IA – The Waterloo City Council will allow the use of side-by-sides in the Riverview Recreation Area’s off-road vehicle park which previously only allowed motorcycles and ATVs. Some citizens were concerned about the mixing of larger vehicles with the smaller motorcycles and ATVs, and the amount of damage the side-by-sides could do to the trails.

Toledo, OH – The Toledo City Council approved the use of golf cars and LSVs on designated public streets through the end of 2018. Under the ordinance LSVs can include mini-trucks and UTVs that travel up to 25 mph.

Ormond Beach, FL – County officials posted signage along John Anderson Drive to indicate that golf cars are restricted from using the road. The signage is for unlicensed golf cars as golf cars in the state can be classified as LSVs if they meet certain requirements.

Hammock, FL – County commissioners are discussing the issue of golf car use on local roads after numerous residents raised the issue. Residents are concerned about golf cars using bike paths, the ability to cross a state highway to gain access to more roads and the cost of street legal requirements.

Elba, AL – Following numerous complaints, the Elba Police Chief had to address the use of unauthorized golf cars and UTVs on public roads. They are allowed on roadways but must meet certain requirements and be registered, and drivers must be at least 16 years old.

Auburn, AL – The city council passed an ordinance allowing the use of low speed vehicles to operate as cabs on certain city streets. The council was approached by an entrepreneur who is interested in starting an LSV taxi service.

Birmingham, AL – The Birmingham City Council is considering an ordinance that will allow taxi services that use low speed vehicles. The ordinance is based on one from Tuscaloosa where the company Joyride is operating such a service.

Bay St. Louis, MS – The city council wants greater enforcement of regulations regarding the use of LSVs, citing underage driving, parking on sidewalks and adults drinking while driving. The golf cars must be street ready and the drivers licensed and insured.

Ocean Springs, MS – Ocean Springs is considering an ordinance that will allow the use of golf cars and LSVs on streets with a speed limit of 30 mph or less.

Kentucky – A bill was signed that allows the commercial use of LSVs to make deliveries. UPS is planning to use the vehicles during the peak holiday season while the Teamsters Local 89 union, which represents many UPS employees, opposes the move citing lower pay for the LSV drivers and concerns about safety.

Jamestown, RI – The city council passed an ordinance that will allow golf cars, UTVs, ATVs and mini-trucks to be used on designated roads.

Jamestown, RI – Town officials are considering an ordinance that will allow LSVs on local roads.

Southport, NC – The board of alderman are reviewing a golf car ordinance amid concerns about the age of drivers, the use of alcohol while driving, safety requirements and the use of golf cars with four rows of seats.

Fort Myers Beach, FL – The city council is considering a permit that will allow, Nickel Ride, a free low speed vehicle taxi service to operate in the town.

Eustis, FL – Eustis Commisioners are considering an ordinance that will allow golf cars and lows speed vehicles in the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.

Carolina Beach, NC – The city council passed an ordinance clarifying the use of golf cars on local city streets. The vehicles will not be allowed to cross streets with speed limits above 35 mph and must have seat belts, headlights, taillights, turn signals and a mirror.

Highland Village, TX – The Highland Village City Council is looking into allowing golf cars and low speed vehicles to operate on certain local streets.

Peachtree City, GA – Peachtree City updated their regulations regarding the authorized use of golf car paths. The update is meant to clarify the rules and allow for better enforcement.

Cloquet City, MN – Cloquet City Councilors passed an ordinance that allows the use of ATVs and UTVs on cerrtain local streets. The vehicles need a permit and the driver needs a license or ATV safety certificate.

 

More STOV Self-Driving Tech

Polaris MRZR X autonomous vehicle

The self-driving MRZR X developed by Polaris, ARA and Neya Systems for the Army’s SMET program.

A recent post highlighted current self-driving tech in the STOV market and commented on the potential in the future. In the past week I came across a couple of additional examples of self-driving tech in the market.

The first is a collaboration between Polaris Industries, Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Neya Systems to provide a platform for the US Army’s Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) program. Polaris brings their MRZR vehicle platform, currently sold to US and allied military organizations around the world, to the collaboration, Neya Systems is providing advanced unmanned systems technology and ARA brings experience in bringing computer and other technical expertise to national security issues. The SMET program’s goal is to develop a ground robotic vehicle to carry a squad’s worth of life support and combat gear. An Army squad typically consists of nine soldiers. (Learn more:  Businesswire.com)

A self-driving shuttle from Auro which was recently acquired by Ridecell.

The second example is California based Ridecell that is developing self-driving, low-speed vehicles for use on private property such as colleges, theme parks, business parks, retirement communities, and basically any campus like setting that can set it’s own traffic rules. Ridecell recently acquired autonomous shuttle maker Auro Robotics. Ridecell will also be providing fleet-management software and services which they already provide for BMW’s and Volkswagen’s car sharing services.The battery-electric shuttle has a top speed of 25 mph and a 90-mile range. Auro currently builds three different configurations to suit various transportation needs and is using GEMs as their base vehicle platform. They provide 2, 6 or 12 seat shuttles depending on customer need. Learn more:  Greencarreports.com

Ridecell is targeting exactly the markets I mentioned in my previous post. The college campus market in particular is already a major market for GEM. However, local GEM dealers could find themselves in competition with Ridecell and indirectly with Polaris who manufactures GEM vehicles, if they end up selling directly to Ridecell. It may be useful for Ridecell, Polaris corporate and local GEM dealers to collaborate in marketing self-driving vehicles. Ridecell could significantly expand their distribution and service channel and enhance their marketing efforts, Polaris could sell more GEMs without alienating their dealer base while establishing the GEM brand in the self-driving space, and GEM dealers could provide a value-added, next generation product to their customers while adding a differentiating and potentially higher margin product to their vehicle lineup.

For GEM dealers this could also be an opportunity to grab a greater share of the gated community market. Traditionally this has been a harder sell for LSVs because of the price of LSVs in comparison to used, refurbished, new and customized golf cars. The Ridecell product however would more likely be marketed to the organization operating the community rather than individual owners, since it would be a shuttle service shared by the community. The economics would be different as well, as the shuttle service would likely need to start with a brand new vehicle. Over the long term, a self-driving shuttle service could very well significantly erode the individual vehicle market in gated communities.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

STOV Self-driving Tech

Yamaha Viking VI autonomous driving

Yamaha Viking VI with autonomous driving technology.

Driverless technology and autonomous driving have been garnering plenty of attention and press lately. The vast majority of the focus has been on highway capable vehicles, but the small, task-oriented vehicle market (STOV) is active in this new area of innovation as well.

One recent example is Yamaha’s development of a fully autonomous Viking VI utility vehicle using their Autonomous System X1 technology. The screenshots from a video of the vehicle in action provides an idea of the technology at work.

Yamaha Viking VI

No driver but some additional screens.

Yamaha Viking VI

Some of the imagery tech the autonomous Viking VI uses.

Yamaha Viking VI

The autonomous Viking VI maneuvering around an obstacle on the trail.

The system combines GPS, LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit). Publicly available aerial imagery and digital elevation maps are used to plan the trip, and simulations from a terrain model are used to find the best local path. In addition, camera images are used to detect traversable ares in an off-road environment. The video of the Viking VI in autonomous action is impressive.

May Mobility self-driving GEM

GEM configured by MAy Mobility for self-driving.

Another example are two GEM vehicles being used by May Mobility to test self-driving technology in the city of Detroit. The testing will be conducted from Oct. 9 to 13 in conjunction with Bedrock, LLC, a real estate firm. The six seater GEMs are configured with May Mobility’s software and sensors and be used to transport Bedrock workers to and from various company locations. The vehicles will operate for three hours a day, travel only on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, and have a driver on board to take control in emergency situations if necessary. Learn more:  Startribune.com

In our recently released STOV market study, SVR argues that self-driving technology could produce a significant boost to the STOV market in the coming years. The lower speed environments may provide a safer environment to initially implement self-driving technology. A number of self-driving test vehicles are being used as shuttles along readily defined loops with limited variation. Gated communities are another low speed environment with limited variability that could provide an easier entry point. The largest potential though resides in a large scale movement towards new urban mobility platforms. In congested urban areas the speed limitations of LSVs are less critical as is the lower vehicle range. On the plus side is the smaller size, zero emissions and lower noise of the vehicles. Self-driving technology has the potential to facilitate large scale deployment of low speed vehicles in urban environments.