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New Flyer unveils Xcelsior AV: North America’s first automated heavy-duty transit bus

New Flyer of America unveiled the Xcelsior AV automated transit bus, now in motion at Robotic Research, LLC in Maryland. The Xcelsior AV unveiling follows New Flyer’s launch of its Automated Technology Program first announced in May 2019, and the subsequent announcement of partnership with artificial intelligence and automation leader Robotic Research also announced in May 2019.


New Flyer and Robotic Research developed the Xcelsior AV—North America’s first fully operational heavy-duty automated transit bus—to harness the zero-emission power of New Flyer’s Xcelsior CHARGE battery-electric propulsion while integrating advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) technology to meet SAE Standard J3016 Level 4 technology with the automated vehicle (AV).

Robotic Research is a privately held, US-based engineering and technology company providing software, robotic technology, and automated solutions to commercial and government customers. Its testing facilities are located in Gaithersburg and Clarksburg, Maryland.

Xcelsior AV capabilities are made possible by two primary technologies. The first is AutoDrive, Robotic Research’s self-driving technology, serving as the “eyes and brain” of the autonomous system and processing the world surrounding the bus, including mapping the environment, making decisions, and navigating the route.

The second is Robotic Research’s AutoDrive ByWire (drive-by-wire system), serving as the “hands and feet” of the automated system and controlling the steering, braking, and throttle, ultimately operating bus movement on its route.

This AV technology delivers several capabilities that are expected to be leveraged in making the mobility experience safer. These system capabilities include:

  • Visualizing the environment: the bus can visualize its current environment using sensors (such as LIDARs, radars, and cameras) that create a three-dimensional model of the world through which to navigate.

  • Pedestrian detection and avoidance: the bus can detect the presence of a pedestrian and adjust course to avoid.

  • Vehicle detection: the bus uses 360° sensors to detect the presence of other vehicles, responding with course adjustment as appropriate.

  • Precision docking: the bus is maneuvered precisely to allow for level boarding from the bus platform for passengers with accessibility needs.

  • Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V): the bus has the ability to communicate directly with other vehicles, which allows safe platooning.

  • Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I): the bus communicates with signalized intersections or other infrastructure-based alerts, such as pedestrian and vehicle alerts (e.g. “Beacon SenseT”). These features will also assist in improving bus depot safety, efficiency and space usage through features such as self-parking, fueling and cleaning.

  • Day or night operation: the bus is fully capable of operating day or night, regardless of lighting or weather events, based on its defined Operational Design Domain (ODD).

  • Safe and redundant system: the bus is capable of running when GPS is unavailable—responding to real-time data and events as they occur, instead of relying only on pre-mapped routes, buildings, and infrastructure.

  • Performance analytics: the bus is integrated with nSight end-to-end data collection to analytics technology, lending deep insight on bus performance and its interaction with other vehicles and infrastructure through its route and operation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration1, AVs offer fourfold potential benefits:

  • Economic and societal: AVs save $242 billion in costs incurred by motor vehicle crashes, including $57.6 billion in lost workplace productivity, and $594 billion due to loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries;

  • Safety: AVs improve safety and use ADAS technology to avoid collisions – of which 94% of serious crashes are caused by human error;

  • Efficiency and convenience: roads filled with AVs could smooth traffic flow and reduce traffic congestion, freeing up to 50 minutes per day of non-driving; and

  • Mobility, accessibility, and jobs: studies suggest that AVs could create new employment opportunities for approximately two million people with disabilities.


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