Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz unveils India’s first driverless shuttle


An Indian technology company specializing in automated guided vehicles (AGVs) has demonstrated a 14-seat autonomous shuttle during the 2016 Auto Expo – The Motor Show in Delhi, India.

Built in Gurgaon, 20 miles south of New Delhi, the Novus Drive shuttle debuted at the recent Delhi motor show where it ferried visitors from one expo pavilion to another. Developed by Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz, the Novus Drive achieves full autonomy through its onboard 32-channel Velodyne HDL-32E real-time 3D LiDAR sensor, stereo vision cameras, GPS inertial navigation system, and machine-driven algorithms for path planning and obstacle detection/avoidance. The vehicle is the first of its kind manufactured in India.

Novus Drive is capable of sensing the surrounding environment while performing intelligent maneuvers for autonomous navigation and passenger interaction. Using a tablet mounted on the vehicle, passengers can set destination goal points, and check details of destination drop-off locations, on configurable cached maps. Once a destination is entered, the vehicle begins its journey. The shuttle can be summoned with a mobile app, which also enables destination selection and seat reservations. A ‘snooze button’ makes the vehicle stop, and audio-visual alerts are available in case of emergency. The Novus Drive was designed for commuting in a variety of controlled environments, such as large university campuses, trade fairs, theme parks, industrial complexes, healthcare communities for the elderly and, in time, smart cities.

Velodyne’s HDL-32E LiDAR sensor is small, lightweight, ruggedly-built, and features up to 32 lasers across a 40-degree vertical field of view. The HDL-32E measures only 5.7in (14.5cm) high and 3.4in (8.6cm) in diameter, weighs less than 4 lb (2kg), and was designed to exceed the demands of the most challenging real-world autonomous navigation, 3D mobile mapping, and other lidar applications. The compact unit is accurate to ±1in (2cm) over a distance of 262-328ft (80-100m) and features low power consumption.

“Novus Drive effectively knows where it is at all times; that’s the beauty of this implementation,” said Anuj Kapuria, director and CEO, Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz.

“Velodyne’s LiDAR sensor maps the entire environment, and creates a 3D reconstruction from which the shuttle can make decisions for autonomous navigation. At the same time, stereo camera vision creates video feeds with in-depth information for determining traversable and non-traversable paths. With this kind of detailed data, Novus Drive can reach its destination with ease, pausing and moving according to the route and actual road congestion.”

Wei Weng, Velodyne Asia sales director, noted, “Novus Drive points the way toward future passenger shuttle-type operations, especially those that don’t require build-out of an extensive infrastructure. Our LiDAR has become the de facto standard for autonomous vehicles and we’re delighted to have assisted Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz in its initial outing at the Auto Expo motor show, in an environment that was as ‘real-world’ as it gets. Our lidar technology is consistently reliable, whatever the conditions.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).