Oxford, England-based self-driving vehicle software company Oxa, previously known as Oxbotica, and Leibnitz, Austria-based electric commercial-vehicle maker eVersum are collaborating to deliver self-driving shuttles for the Harlander Project’s Innovation District in Northern Ireland’s Belfast Harbour Estate and tourist attractions such as the revamped Titanic Belfast exhibition. The first Belfast Harbour project shuttles are due to enter passenger service in 2025.
“With eVersum, we can deploy passenger-carrying autonomous shuttle fleets almost anywhere and these flexible forms of transport will become widespread as a way of moving people and goods in a safer, more efficient, and faster way,” said Oxa CEO Gavin Jackson. “The broader rollout of self-driving vehicles is starting, and shuttling can lead the way as the fastest evolving commercial arena for Oxa self-driving technology to make its mark internationally.”
Announced in October 2023, Oxa and eVersum are partnering to design, develop, and produce shared autonomous passenger vehicles to initially address a growing need for better, more flexible, and low-carbon public transport options, particularly as urban populations grow and road congestion intensifies. The high cost of maintaining multi-route transit services combined with persistent driver shortages are already leading to service cuts affecting communities and vulnerable groups such as the elderly. By adopting autonomous e-shuttles, the partners believe that transit operators can affordably and safely sustain routes and timetables while also addressing congestion and emissions-reduction targets.
“The project strengthens the recent partnership announced with Oxa, and it will propel eVersum’s growth,” said Ben Jardine, Chief Product Officer and CEO of eVersum UK. “With Harlander, and with Oxa, we are laying the foundations for commercializing autonomous driving passenger transport across the UK and far beyond.”
The shuttles will be controlled by the full stack of Oxa Driver software. The self-driving system is modular, customizable, and can be retrofitted as a complete solution or integrated into co-developed autonomy solutions in full or at the component level.
Developed to address the mobility shift of inner-city and last-mile public transportation, the eVersum e-shuttle is a mid-sized, low-floor (for accessibility), low-noise vehicle designed from the ground up using zero-emission technology. Each shuttle in the Belfast deployment will have a human safety operator on board and be capable of carrying up to 20 people seated, 40 including standing room.
The £11 million Harlander project is partly funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles. The deployment will initially see two autonomous shared passenger shuttles running between local transport links. The project is part of Belfast Harbour’s strategic plans and investment, underscoring its commitment to enhancing local infrastructure using cutting-edge technology. The rollout phase involves a period of closed operation during the first quarter of 2025 before the service opens for passengers.
“The UK connected and automated mobility industry is maturing to become of crucial importance to the UK, and promises safer, cleaner, and more efficient transport systems benefiting everyone,” said Innovate UK Executive Director for Net Zero Mike Biddle. “We welcome new commercial partnerships that strengthen the ecosystem and will continue to support all UK partners with their strategic ambitions.”
The eVersum collaboration is the latest in Oxa’s autonomy efforts that include a partnership announced in August that will see its autonomy software installed in a variety of vehicle types operated by Beep Inc., from current passenger shuttles to future vehicle platforms. The first partnership initiative is for a fleet of Beep electric shuttles. Vehicles featuring Oxa Driver software are currently operating at the SunTrax test facility in Auburndale, FL, designed for connected autonomous vehicles and standard automotive testing in a single site.
The Oxa Driver for Beep combines sensor data from the camera, lidar, and radar sensors to enable a more comprehensive view than systems that rely on cameras alone. The fused sensor technology is said to be the first of its kind deployed in a passenger shuttle in the U.S. The software uses AI to accurately sense and predict changes to the vehicle’s environment while learning from previous journeys, which the company says is key to improving the capability of the technology over time.
“Oxa’s self-driving software, integrated with our command center and service management software, provides a safe and sophisticated autonomous solution that will enhance our passenger experience and operational capabilities, making more accessible, true autonomous use cases a near-term reality,” said Joe Moye, CEO at Beep.
This Beep announcement followed a successful Series C funding round for Oxa, which raised more than $140 million for the business earlier this year as well as for a new strategic partnership leveraging several Google Cloud products to help develop, test, validate, and verify its self-driving technology. In addition to the Oxa Driver software, the company offers the Oxa MetaDriver, a suite of proprietary generative AI tools that accelerate deployment, and Oxa Hub, a set of cloud-based offerings for autonomous fleet management for industries including agriculture and logistics.