News & insights

Second AV Shuttle Service Driven by Oxa Launches in Florida

Beep and Oxa launch new autonomous shuttles in Lake Nona

Lake Nona residents in Orlando, Florida, are experiencing autonomy first-hand with newly deployed, self-driving shuttles driven by Oxa. Vehicles powered by Oxa Driver and delivered by our partner Beep, a leading shared autonomous mobility provider, will traverse Lake Nona Blvd daily. It is Oxa’s second commercial software deployment with Beep, and a further five services are set to launch in multiple US cities by the end of 2024.

Shuttles and Swimming Pools

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are fast becoming commonplace, and we want Oxa to be a natural partner for any business deploying autonomous vehicle fleets on- and off-highway. First through passenger shuttles and then with industrial logistics and asset monitoring as fast followers. Still, with two commercial software deployments now complete and momentum building, it's fun to look back to where it all started for me.

My own autonomy journey began in a swimming pool in Hawaii nearly 20 years ago. I found an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in a Mechanical Engineering lab at the University of Hawaii and convinced my PhD advisor that deploying it in the (outdoor) university swimming pool was the best way to validate the novel 6 DoF control strategies I was developing. I quickly broke free from the confines of the pool and began deploying AUVs in the ocean, initially in the Southern California Bight with a team focussed on tracking and chasing algal blooms to gather data and predict environmental impacts. From that work - understanding direct impacts of climate change on marine systems - to helping cities cut transport emissions by tempting people out of cars and taxis with autonomous electric shuttles today, I have always focused on the environmental impact in my work.

Ryan Smith and Jordan Brenner preparing an autonomous aquatic vehicle for environmental monitoring work
Ryan Smith and Jordan Brenner preparing an autonomous aquatic vehicle for environmental monitoring work

Fast forward a couple decades from those early aquatic adventures and I joined Oxa where my best friend Ben Upcroft and I led its software development program. We worked on the first version of Oxa Driver, the software providing the driving intelligence for all vehicles driven by Oxa today. Over the last year I have returned to my roots in field robotics, building the team that is deploying Oxa’s technology in multiple vehicles serving our fast-growing customer base. It’s been a full circle - from writing code to deploying on road, and almost back again!

Lake Nona: Home to the World's Most Technically Advanced Hotel

The latest service is helping residents and visitors move around a truly high-tech neighbourhood. Lake Nona is a visionary development delivered by Tavistock Development Company and positioned within the city limits of Orlando. Spread out over 44 square kilometres, Lake Nona is a living lab where big ideas come to life, integrating technology, mobility, health, and well-being to create a smart, connected community. It’s a commitment that attracted Beep to locate its headquarters in the area and Oxa to open its first US office here. The local gigawatt network has encouraged multiple Fortune 500 companies in and it is also host to Lake Nona Wave Hotel, celebrated as the world’s most technologically advanced hotel. Shuttles run a circular route connecting Wave Hotel with the upscale Canvas restaurant via the Lake Nona Town Center, a mixed-use entertainment destination.

Beep Shuttle, Lake Nona
A Beep shuttle driven by Oxa outside the Wave Hotel in Lake Nona, Florida

New Locations, Different Challenges

This deployment follows Beep and Oxa’s first shuttle launch in February with the Jacksonville Transport Authority (JTA) and the Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ). It is a key element in a JTA-led regeneration initiative. In Jacksonville, the FSCJ shuttles move between the two main college campus buildings. The route traverses regions with constant scene changes and multiple dynamic and unpredictable actors (traffic and people) presenting complex interactions and scenarios. Deploying passenger-carrying services here has pushed us further along our solutions delivery path, not only advancing our technology but also our experience of working with commercial partners to provide autonomous mobility services for passengers that prioritise a quality ride experience.

Preparation is Vital

While Oxa has the ability to deploy quickly with our partners, we take immense care with every launch. We scout new routes ahead of going live, gathering data for route qualification, map building and creating a digital twin. We run 1000s of miles virtually to simulate scenarios from the mundane to the peculiar. The process allows us to test against a host of edge cases (rare occurrences) for specific vehicles in specific places. We only carry passengers once we have assured we can deliver a safe operation. 

While our preparation process may sound laborious, virtual miles are accrued many times faster than physical miles, and the more scenarios we experience the more routes we unlock. Ultimately, through virtual and real-world miles driven, our system will be proven in different kinds of places, doing different jobs on different vehicles, and put to use commercially across a vast range of transportation sectors and geographies - truly unlocking what we call Universal Autonomy™.

Oxa MetaDriver simulates complex environments to test a multitude of normal and potential adversarial scenarios using GenAI
Oxa MetaDriver simulates complex environments to test a multitude of normal and potential adversarial scenarios using GenAI

And while we unlock the art of the possible, we ensure AI decision-making explainability is at the heart of the Oxa Driver system. Alongside our own safety practices, together with Beep, we also work very closely with NHTSA - the US safety regulator for highways - to gain all necessary regulatory approvals and evidence, including performance data, videos and reports. We keep NHTSA informed of our current performance and continued commitment to safety through constant examination.

What’s Next?

Beyond Lake Nona, we are now working with Beep to test new shuttles at the state-of-the-art SunTrax facility in Florida. These shuttles will be launched in more passenger services later this year. We are working with multiple vehicle OEMs on new shuttle concepts as well as industrial designs as we have a constant need for new vehicle types offering different capabilities. This supports our Universal Autonomy vision as we extend Oxa Driver into an increasing number, and diversity, of applications.

Am I proud of what the team has achieved so far? Absolutely. Are we ambitious to do more? Yes!