MIT team showcases autonomous electric vehicle in Taipei


TAIPEI — A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Media Lab exhibited a smart vehicle with autonomous capabilities, which has been jointly developed with Taiwan’s Institute for Information Industry, on Sunday.

The MIT research team showcased a prototype of its persuasive electric vehicle (PEV), a three-wheeled vehicle powered by both an electric motor and pedal and designed to carry people or packages, at the TAF (Taiwan Air Force) Innovation base in Taipei.

According to Michael Lin, a Taiwanese Ph.D. student at the MIT Media Lab and a key member of the PEV project, the vehicle is equipped with radar, cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence technology, so it can learn and identify its surroundings.

The PEV can autonomously travel on bicycle lanes to a designated location to pick up a passenger or goods. Passengers can operate the vehicle themselves, while goods can be delivered autonomously.

In a simulation of delivery operations in New York over the course of two hours, PEVs cut travel distance by 40 percent and carbon emissions by 60 percent, compared with other autonomous vehicles, Lin pointed out.

The team first started the project 10 years ago to develop a car service for the sharing economy, and the concept of self-driving vehicles was included two years ago, Lin said.

The vehicle is designed on the basis of a lightweight bicycle, and Taiwanese companies took part in the development and manufacture of 90 percent of the vehicle’s body, he added.

The showcase in Taipei was held to attract students, research institutes, the government and businesses in Taiwan to participate in PEV-related projects, Lin said.

He said the Media Lab is expected to produce 50 PEVs by the end of this year, which will be tested in Taipei, Singapore, the United States and Hamburg, Germany.

Hopefully, people in Taipei can experience the 10 PEVs to be tested at the TAF Innovation Base by year-end, according to Lin.

In terms of the cost, Lin hopes to keep it below NT$200,000 (US$5,979.79) per unit.