Optimus Ride and Polaris Inc. plan to bring fully autonomous GEM vehicles to market by the second half of 2023 — a move that expands upon the two companies' standing collaboration.
Optimus, the Boston self-driving shuttle company, and Polaris Commercial, a Minneapolis unit of the maker of snowmobiles and off-road vehicles, will jointly develop Polaris low-speed Global Electric Motorcars equipped with Optimus' autonomous technology, the companies said in a statement Tuesday. The companies said the vehicles will be deployed in "residential communities, corporate and academic campuses and other localized environments" across the country.
GEMs are tiny vehicles similar to golf carts but with enhanced safety features and the ability to legally traverse roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less.
Optimus has been piloting GEM-based electric autonomous vehicles with safety drivers aboard in geofenced areas in Massachusetts, Virginia, California, New York and Washington, D.C. The company said it has completed 75,000 rides with Polaris GEM vehicles over the past two years.
It says the new agreement builds on the pilot projects. An exclusive line of GEMs will be developed with Optimus Ride's autonomous software and hardware suite fully integrated at the factory. The vehicles will be driverless, with remote monitoring.
The partnership follows Polaris' undisclosed equity investment in Optimus last year.
It "accelerates our pursuit to transform personal mobility by delivering on-demand, autonomous transportation services to communities across the country," Optimus Ride CEO Sean Harrington said in the statement. "Polaris is the ideal partner to bring these vehicles to market with their established leadership in the LSV [Low Speed Vehicle] space, ability to quickly scale production and their deep knowledge of and experience in urban mobility."
Harrington told Automotive News in February that the Polaris vehicle is "optimized for this type of service, where every passenger seat has its own door."
"It's easy for everybody to get in and out," Harrington said. "It's very comfortable and it's fun."