Cheap AV Launched, with Eyes on Self-Construction

Cheap AV Launched, with Eyes on Self-Construction

A robotics start-up is launching an autonomous vehicle aimed at less wealthy consumers, with the suggestion that it can provide build-your-own AVs in future.

PerceptIn, a Santa Clara company that specializes in visual intelligence hardware and software, has unveiled the DragonFly Pod, an AV that it constructed using its own technology. The company hails it as “the people’s AV”, with a price tag of $40,000, which it’s claiming as a world first. However, it can hold no more than two passengers, its top speed is just 20 mph, and its initial usage will be restricted to employee and goods transit around university and company campuses and similar low-traffic areas.

The car’s pod-like structure is similar to that of Electra Meccanica’s SOLO single-passenger, human-driven electric vehicle, which costs just $15,000 and is equipped for commuting in downtown traffic. PerceptIn founder and chairman Dr Shaoshan Liu claims the company’s engineering techniques enable the DragonFly’s robotics technology to “understand the world around it to know precisely where it is regardless [of whether] a GPS signal is blocked. With our engineering team’s expertise in artificial intelligence, system integration, hardware engineering and optics, PerceptIn has essentially built the ‘eye’ for robots”.

Shaoshan also says PerceptIn’s “vision” is to provide “all citizens”, including those with jobs likely to be taken over by robots, with access to autonomous vehicle tech. A company statement says it plans to do this by “modularizing” an AV’s core components then making those components available to the consumer on an individual basis. He claims PerceptIn has been able “to make the building of AVs not that much different from that of building with Legos”.

In the meantime, PerceptIn aims for the DragonFly to be commercially available from November.

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