David Bruemmer, CEO and Cofounder, 5D Robotics Inc
Within a few years the prevalence of intelligent mobility will change dramatically. Many technology companies and automotive manufacturers are ramping up their efforts to develop self-driving cars. However, in order to merge manned and autonomous vehicles onto existing roadways we will have to overcome significant policy and infrastructure road-blocks. Moreover, smarter cars may still sit in traffic just as we do already. Making cars smarter doesn’t necessarily solve the key problems: too many vehicles on the roads, the need to reduce greenhouse gases of the cost of traffic congestion on productivity.
Towards these goals 5D is focused on enabling off-highway autonomous mobility systems that can utilize existing, under-utilized pedestrian infrastructure. The pods drive autonomously to meet you wherever you are (indoors or outdoors) based on your cell phone and drive you to your destination. It doesn’t take up any more room than a pedestrian.
You don’t need to pick it up or drop it off at a specific location and you never need to park it because once it drops you off it goes on the next customer. The goal is not to replace other forms of transportation but rather to solve the first and last mile problem, linking people to mass transit and other forms of existing transportation.
A key performance driver is the ability to drive a predictable, precise path such that the vehicle stays at all times on the right hand side of a sidewalk, path or bike lane. A primary challenge is that GPS does not have the accuracy to meet these goals. Although GPS can tell which highway you are driving on, it generally can’t tell which lane a car is in. Thus, a key element of 5D’s efforts have focused on accurate, reliable positioning. 5D has accomplished this by creating an Ultra Wideband network that provides certainty to within 2cm for position and 2 degrees for heading. This technology provides a means of convergence where every element (humans, robots, manned vehicles, air vehicles) of the ecosystem is able to perceive the location and relative motion of everything else in real-time.
Accurate positioning allows us to create innovative applications not only for transportation, but for safety, security, efficiency and position-based advertising. Companies want real-time information about where people are going, what they are doing and why they are doing it. Think about the impact that GPS already had on how we live, communicate and move ourselves. Now imagine if that position information was much more accurate, worked indoors and included accurate heading as well as position. Utilizing the UWB constellation allows 5D to engage in multiple applications including mapping out utility lines, inspecting pipelines, automated rescue in mines, precision agriculture, chemical monitoring in petrochemical plants, facility security, reconfigurable smart factories and a host of other applications. Ultimately, a new generation of peer to peer positioning will provide big data engines with the ability to link information not only to mobility and economic concerns but also to purpose. Accurate peer to peer positioning has the ability to answer the question of why we do things and help us form connections in space, time and purpose that would never before have been possible.