AutoMatters: Driverless Shuttle & More at International CES

By Jan Wagner

When we get into an elevator and press a button for our floor, we don’t give that ride a second thought, do we? If we’re talking with someone before we get into the elevator, we’re likely to continue our conversation when we’re inside. We trust the elevator to take us to where we’re going and let us off, safe and sound.

Now imagine we’re outside, at a shuttle stop. Depending upon how the system is set up, we might either wait for the shuttle to reach our stop on its set route or we might use our smart phone or some other device to call for a shuttle when we need it. Soon it arrives, the doors open and it waits for us to get onboard. We select our destination on a touchscreen from a menu of available choices, sit down and enjoy the ride. We feel free to continue our conversations, read or perhaps get some work done on our laptops.

Imagine no more. Navia by Induct is a self-driving shuttle that can carry up to eight passengers. It is autonomous, so there is no driver. Unlike an elevator, Navia has no need for tracks. It drives on ordinary roads, just like a car.

This pretty much describes my experience in a Navia outside the Las Vegas Convention Center last month during the International CES.

Navia is comfortable and, because it is all-electric, it is whisper quiet. When it reaches our destination it stops and opens its doors so that we may leave, just like we would leave an elevator.

Since it has no driver and can move in either direction, there is no need for it to turn around.

Navia is ideally suited for use in urban centers, on large industrial sites, airports, college campuses, theme parks, sprawling hospital complexes and just about anywhere else that has a need for efficient, safe, easily accessible and environmentally clean shuttle transportation. It can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Navia navigates from a precise map that it learned as it was first driven around its new site. At all times it knows where it is on that map and how to get to its various, preset destinations. To avoid obstacles in its path – including people, Navia has cameras and onboard lasers (called LIDAR units, for Light Detection and Ranging, which are accurate to one centimeter and have a range sweep of 200 yards). Navia travels at speeds up to 12.5 mph.

It recharges itself in one of two ways. If Navia follows a set route with predetermined stops, whenever it drops off and picks up passengers it can get a sufficient recharge for up to an additional half-mile of driving, in only 15 seconds. It does this by stopping above an inductive charging station. There is no physical contact between the shuttle and the charging station. Instead, it uses magnetic fields.

The other way that it can recharge itself is better suited for when it does not follow a preset route. Navia can fully recharge its lithium polymer batteries in six hours.

Induct, based in France, claims that Navia is 40 to 60% less expensive to operate than conventional shuttle buses, which have average annual operating costs of $200,000.

Navia is currently undergoing real-world road tests in locations around the world. To find out more, go to

Also at this year’s International CES, many companies were displaying small, convenient, rechargeable power supplies for cell phones, tablets and other portable devices. These varied greatly in capacity, from the slim, credit card-sized POWERCARD from Monster (1,650 mAh – to the second generation Astro series from Anker (6,000 to 12,000 mAh –


Cell phone, tablet and laptop cases were also well represented. Since I had just bought a new, brushed-metal-finish MacBook laptop computer, I was especially interested in Speck’s line of SeeThru and ultra-thin SmartShell protective shells, available in clear and colors (


EK USA has metal-finish, mag wheel-style phone cases with spokes and mini-lugnuts, complete with a wrench (

). They also offer “One Hander” shielded cardholders with a neck strap.

Cobra showed what may well be the world’s smallest automotive jumper battery with cables. The Cobra JumPack, which will easily fit into a car’s glove box, will be available in late March or April for $129 at

As always, please write to

with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner – #318