Optimus Ride, a MIT spinoff company developing self-driving vehicle technology, announced a first of its kind partnership with renowned real estate developer LStar Ventures, to provide Union Point’s residents with access to self-driving vehicles. This agreement represents the world’s first revenue generating autonomous vehicle pilot programme.
Under terms of the 18-month pilot agreement, Optimus Ride will have part of its autonomous vehicle fleet on-site within Union Point, the 1,550-acre urban development located 12 miles south of Boston. Union Point residents and visitors will be able to experience driverless vehicles to travel within the site and connect to mass transit, specifically the on-site South Weymouth commuter rail station. Optimus Ride expects to begin moving passengers by early 2018.
Earlier this year, Optimus Ride announced it had received approval from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to test highly automated vehicles in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Over the last several months, Optimus Ride has been testing its self-driving vehicles in Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, located along the South Boston Waterfront.
This initiative represents Union Point’s latest effort to evolve the former air base into a living laboratory for smart city technologies and sustainability solutions that benefit all its multigenerational residents. Earlier this year, LStar Ventures announced a partnership with GE to install the company’s high-tech street sensors and solar panels as well as other experimental technology in the coming months and years.
“My colleagues and I are truly honored to be partnering with a visionary like LStar Ventures on this unique, first of its kind pilot,” said Ryan Chin, CEO, Optimus Ride. “Union Point’s people-centric vision and smart city mission aligns with the values of Optimus Ride’s founding team, and we look forward to our future shared success.”
“Our team is incredibly excited to be bringing Optimus Ride’s cutting-edge vehicles to Union Point, and we look forward to watching our residents of all ages and backgrounds benefit from this greater mobility access,” said Kyle Corkum, CEO, LStar Ventures. “This latest deal is an important step in our journey to become one of the world’s leading smart cities that enhances the way our residents live, work and experience Union Point.”
The Union Point site has additional special significance for Optimus Ride’s founding team. In 2007, Optimus Ride’s President, Sertac Karaman, and CTO, Albert Huang, were part of the first MIT team that successfully completed the DARPA Urban Challenge, a competition put on by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense to learn whether autonomous vehicles could maneuver through urban settings. In advance of ultimately finishing the 90-kilometer course, Sertac and Albert conducted most of their early testing at what was then the South Weymouth Naval Air Station, trialing early versions of the algorithms that are now commonly used throughout the industry.
“A decade following our success at the DARPA Urban Challenge, it’s rewarding to have come full circle and be back in South Weymouth,” said Sertac Karaman, President, Optimus Ride. “We’re incredibly proud to be deploying this 21st-century transportation system on this site that has now evolved to be one of the world’s most forward-looking communities.”