Vegas visitors can take semi-autonomous electric cars for a tour starting in 2023

Archimotothe maker of three-wheeled electric Fun Utility Vehicles (FUVs), is teaming up with Faction to develop electric vehicles that can be delivered to the customer’s hotel through a combination of low-level autonomy and teleassistance technology. The tie-up is part of an upcoming pilot project in Las Vegas with GoCar Tours that will allow tourists to sightsee in Faction-powered FUVs.

Here’s how it will work: Arcimoto’s FUVs will be equipped with Faction’s camera and radar sensor suite and its Level 2+ Advanced Driver Assistance System, which handles tasks like lane assist and collision avoidance. The vehicles will also have a tablet that includes GoCar’s GPS-guided tour of the Vegas Strip (GoCar wants to eventually expand that tour to include Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam). The vehicles will travel from the GoCar depot in the Arts District to various hotels along the strip – a straight five-mile stretch with a speed limit of 30 mph. Tourists will then pick up the FUVs and drive them around the tour route at their own pace before returning the vehicles back to their hotels, after which the FUVs will ‘self-drive’ back to the GoCar depot.

I use quotes around “carry themselves” for a reason. Faction’s system can drive itself from A to B along a predetermined route and knows to stop itself if it encounters an anomaly or a task it cannot complete, such as an object on the road or an unprotected left turn. But for judgment calls, he relies on the operator. The teleoperator will remotely adjust the line of the trajectory that the car follows to bypass an object or parking lot and give an order to execute.

Arcimoto’s partnership with Faction and GoCar will initially include about 20 vehicles starting in mid-2023, but the companies hope to expand the offering to an additional 290 vehicles in Vegas and other cities where GoCar operates, including San Francisco, San Diego and Barcelona.

Faction is a company that sees Level 5 autonomy as a research project that is at least a decade ahead of actual commercialization, and teleoperation as a necessary component for scaling autonomous fleets today. The startup is building its business by focusing on creating “the right-sized technology package with the right-sized vehicles,” meaning Faction relies on an array of cameras, including a thermal camera and radar, to reach basic levels of autonomy. instead of fitting a vehicle with expensive lidar and the latest computing systems.

“Right now, our current vehicle systems are under $35,000,” Ain McKendrick, CEO and founder of Faction, told TechCrunch. “We’re taking an Arcimoto vehicle platform worth about $17,000 and putting in about $12,000 to $13,000 worth of tech. We’ve announced our partnership with Nvidia, but I don’t want their latest and greatest liquid-cooled Omniverse thing that’s going to take a trunk and a minivan to work. I want two generations back in their car package that we can scale with.”

McKendrick said the benefit of being a “second-wave autonomy company” is that Faction isn’t trying to solve all the edge cases right now. As for its partnership with Arcimoto and GoCar, Faction is simply trying to figure out how to replace the person who would otherwise deliver these vehicles to customers’ hotels.

“Our goal is to be profitable at $2 per mile, point the gate, not to have the promise that the cost will be reduced in 10 years,” McKendrick said.

Arcimoto FUV at the Las Vegas track

Arcimoto FUV at the Las Vegas track. Image credit: Archimoto

Aside from the gimmicky aspect of having a tour car drive itself to a customer’s hotel, GoCar is here for the potential cost savings for its business.

“We’ve been thinking about the self-service model where people can come in, help themselves to a vehicle and drive away, and we’ve had multiple locations before, but the economies of having those multiple locations is a challenge because you don’t know where the customer is going to be,” Nathan Whittrington, founder of GoCar, told TechCrunch. “We might have 10 cars available at one location and the other has a waiting list of 30 people. Then moving cars across town and everything is a nightmare.”

If customers can simply call a vehicle to them, where GoCar stores them becomes much less important. The company will gain visibility from its cars just being on the road, and it will be easier to clean and prepare them when they are all accounted for.

GoCar is now working with Arcimoto to offer FUVs to tourists. Withrington says the FUVs are the first type of EV the company has put into its fleet that can actually handle the mileage required, can cross bridges and is highway legal. Plus, tourists love to ride them.

For Arcimoto, the partnership is a chance to expand its reach as a touring vehicle offering while building on its current partnership with Faction. The two began working together last year to build D1semi-autonomous FUV-based delivery vehicle and have been operating pilots in the Bay Area since July, according to McKendrick.

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