Vegas visitors can take semi-autonomous EVs on a tour starting in 2023 businessupdates.org

by Ana Lopez

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

Here’s how it works: Arcimoto’s FUVs will be equipped with Faction’s sensor suite of cameras and radar and the Level 2+ advanced driver assistance system, which handles tasks such as lane keeping and collision avoidance. The vehicles will also have a tablet with GoCar’s GPS tour of the Vegas strip (GoCar eventually plans to expand this tour to include Red Rock Canyon and the Hoover Dam). The vehicles go from the GoCar depot in the Arts District to various hotels along the strip – a five-mile straight stretch of road with a 30-mph speed limit. Tourists then collect the FUVs and drive them along the tour route at their own pace before returning themselves and the vehicles to their hotels, after which the FUVs “drive themselves back” to the GoCar depot.

I use quotes around ‘driving yourself’ for a reason. Faction’s system can drive itself from A to B on a predetermined route, and knows how to stop itself if it encounters an anomaly or a task it can’t complete, such as an object on its way or an unprotected left turn. But for appraisal interviews, it relies on the teleoperator. The teleoperator remotely adjusts the trajectory line the vehicle follows to go around an object or a parking space and gives the order to execute.

Arcimoto’s partnership with Faction and GoCar originally includes about 20 vehicles as of 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 at least a decade away from actual commercialization, and teleoperation as a necessary component for scaling autonomous fleets today. The startup is building its business by focusing on doing “a right-sized tech stack with right-sized vehicles,” meaning Faction relies on a suite of cameras, including a thermal camera, and radar to capture basic levels of achieve autonomy, rather than fit a vehicle with expensive lidar and the latest computer systems.

“Right now, our current vehicle systems are under $35,000,” Ain McKendrick, CEO and founder of Faction, told businessupdates.org. “We’re taking about $17,000 Arcimoto vehicle platform and we’re putting up about $12,000 to $13,000 in technology. We announced our partnership with Nvidia, but I don’t want their latest and greatest liquid-cooled Omniverse thing that needs a trunk and a minivan to drive. I want to go back two generations in their automotive-grade package that allows us to scale up.

McKendrick said the advantage of being a “second wave autonomy company” is that Faction isn’t trying to solve all the fringe issues right now. As for the partnership with Arcimoto and GoCar, Faction is only trying to find a solution to replace the human who would otherwise bring those vehicles to customers’ hotels.

“Our goal is to be profitable at $2 a mile, not to have a promise that costs will be lower in 10 years,” said McKendrick.

An Arcimoto FUV on the Las Vegas strip

An Arcimoto FUV on the Las Vegas strip. Image credit: Arcimoto

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

“We’ve been thinking about the self-service model where people can come help themselves to a vehicle and drive off. We used to have multiple locations, but the economics of these multiple locations is challenging because you don’t know where the customer is going to be,” Nathan said. Withrington, founder of GoCar, told businessupdates.org. “We might have 10 cars available at one location and a waiting list of 30 people at another. Then cars driving through the city and everything is a nightmare.

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

GoCar is already working with Arcimoto to offer FUVs to tourists. Withrington says FUVs are the first type of EV the company has put into its fleet that can actually handle the range it needs, can cross bridges and are highway legal. In addition, tourists love to ride it.

For Arcimoto, the partnership is an opportunity to expand its reach as a vehicle tourism offering while building on its current partnership with Faction. The two started working together last year on build the D1a semi-autonomous delivery van based on the FUV, and has been piloting in the Bay Area since July, McKendrick said.

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