Boston is known for many things: The Red Sox baseball team, fresh lobster, the highest density of universities in one city. “Autonomous vehicles” can now be added to the list.

Optimus Ride, an MIT spinoff company, recently announced that it has received approval from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to test highly automated vehicles.

Many automakers and shared car networks have grabbed headlines as they race to develop self-driving cars. But fewer companies are thinking about how autonomous vehicles will work together with other forms of transportation to provide complete mobility-on-demand systems.

Optimus Ride is approaching this opportunity with a fully autonomous (level 4) system for electric vehicle fleets.

Powered by DRIVE PX 2

Our AI supercomputer for self-driving cars — NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 — will power Optimus Ride’s fleet and enable the company to roll out a safe, practical and accessible form of mobility.

DRIVE PX 2 allows startups like Optimus Ride to accelerate development of autonomous vehicles. The platform scales from a palm-sized, energy-efficient module for AutoCruise capabilities, to a powerful AI supercomputer capable of fully autonomous driving.

And it uses deep learning to understand in real time what’s happening all around the vehicle (360 degrees), precisely locate itself on an HD map and plan a safe path forward.

“We believe the computational power needed to make self-driving vehicles a reality is finally coming to market with the most recent NVIDIA products, specifically the DRIVE PX 2 hardware and its supporting software,” said Sertac Karaman, co-founder, president and chief scientist at Optimus Ride. “We are proud to have NVIDIA support us to make transportation affordable, equitable, accessible, clean, and just fun and enjoyable.”

Real World Driving Miles

Optimus Ride’s new R&D location in the Boston Seaport District spans 20,000 square feet, with outdoor and indoor testing facilities. Its indoor test track has reconfigurable lanes and obstacles to recreate any street scenario. Strategically located in Boston’s “Autonomous Testing Zone,” the facilities enable Optimus Ride to accelerate technology development and validation.

MassDOT and the City of Boston have also granted Optimus Ride permission to begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads and public properties throughout Massachusetts.

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MIT Spinoff Harnesses Collective Three Decades of Experience in Robotics, On-demand Transportation and Electric Vehicles to Help Usher in Next Era of Transportation in Massachusetts

Today, Optimus Ride, a MIT spinoff company developing self-driving technology, announced it has received approval from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to test highly automated vehicles in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In addition, the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MassDOT along with the City of Boston to enable testing of self-driving vehicles on roads and public property in the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, beginning in Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, owned by the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) and located along the South Boston Waterfront.

“MassDOT is pleased to continue to encourage the innovation economy of our state by approving Optimus Ride’s application to test autonomous vehicles in Massachusetts,” said Kate Fichter, Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination, MassDOT. “MassDOT appreciates Optimus Ride’s commitment to helping this new technology perform at its highest level through the testing of its vehicles in the Ray Flynn Marine Industrial Park.”

“We at Optimus Ride are passionate about the impact that autonomy will have on the future of the transportation industry,” said Ryan Chin, Co-Founder and CEO, Optimus Ride. “We’re thrilled to see that MassDOT and the City of Boston share in this future vision, and look forward to seeing how this revolutionary partnership will benefit one of America’s greatest and most historic cities.”

“We are excited to collaborate with another Boston-based startup to jointly explore the future of transportation in Boston that creates a safe, reliable, and equitable system,” said Kris Carter, Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. “This partnership is a great example of the City and State supporting homegrown talent to develop new solutions for its citizens.”

A recent study by Strategy Analytics estimates the global passenger economy for self-driving vehicles to be $7 trillion per year by 2050, with network connected software and hardware promising to completely transform this space in the next decade. Self-driving technology also has great potential to positively alter how people and goods move as well as improve access for those that cannot, should not or choose not to drive. An additional study by Morgan Stanley examining the economic and societal impact in terms of cost savings in the U.S. alone is staggering in the areas of safety ($488B/year), energy efficiency ($158B/year), and productivity ($507B/year).

The unique makeup of the Optimus Ride team includes over 30 years of shared experience on the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research in self-driving technologies, electric vehicles, mobility-on-demand and other transportation systems. The team also has a decade of industrial and entrepreneurial experience spanning manufacturing robots, medical robots, shared vehicle fleet management and urban design. Building on this significant knowledge, the company will continue to leverage the latest advances in complex sensor fusion, mapping, computer vision and machine learning to ultimately deploy a new form of transportation system that enables safe, sustainable and equitable mobility access.

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Optimus Ride, an MIT spinoff company that develops self-driving technology, has raised a series seed investment of $5.25M co-led by NextView Ventures and FirstMark Capital.

This round of seed venture financing will enable Optimus Ride to accelerate the development of its fully autonomous (level 4) vehicle technology. Investors in the round include venture capital firms Greycroft Partners, Morado Venture Partners, Haystack and Uj Ventures. Optimus Ride also secured investment from NVIDIA GPU Ventures— the investment arm of NVIDIA, the world’s leading AI computing company. Other key investors in the round include Nicco Mele, the Director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University, and Joi Ito, the Director of the MIT Media Lab.

The Optimus Ride team has its roots at MIT, and collectively they share over 30 years of experience on the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research in self-driving technologies, electric vehicles, mobility-on-demand and other transportation systems. The team also includes a decade of industrial and entrepreneurial experience spanning manufacturing robots, medical robots, shared vehicle fleet management and urban design.

Building on this experience, Optimus Ride will leverage the latest advances in complex sensor fusion, mapping, computer vision and machine learning to develop its systems. The company is working to integrate these technologies in order to deploy a new form of transportation system that enables safe, sustainable and equitable mobility access. Optimus Ride has been testing its systems in partnership with the City of Boston, and is currently engaging in additional partnerships for testing and pilot deployments within other cities in the U.S.

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