Autonomous Golf Carts and Neighborhood EVs: Top Three Success Stories

Worldwide, the interest in electric vehicles (EVs), is deepening. Governments are eager to see national carbon emission figures turn downward and consumers themselves are now more aware of the environmental benefits. The golf carts and neighborhood electric vehicles (EVs) market is a niche within the larger EV industry, but is expected to grow at a healthy rate over the next few years. According to Transparency Market Research, the global market for golf carts and neighborhood EVs is expected to report a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% between 2014 and 2020. If this growth rate holds true, the global neighborhood and EV market will be worth US$2.81 billion.

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However, this niche market has not remained insulated from the other major trend that’s currently being observed in the global vehicle industry: Autonomous or self-driving vehicles. There has been some interest in the development of autonomous golf carts and NEVs, especially from universities.
Here are a few examples of innovative autonomous cars that carry the potential to hit the commercial golf cart and NEV market:

  • University of Michigan Develops SmartCart with 3D Printed Components: In July this year, a team of students at the University of Michigan have fused together the two biggest trends in the vehicle industry—3D printing and autonomous driving technology—to develop a car the low-speed SmartCart.  The cart’s powertrain is the same as that of a golf cart but most other parts of the car are produced using the additive manufacturing technique. The team decided to make use of additive manufacturing because it is easier to iterate. The parts have been printed by Local Motors, which was the company to have unveiled the world’s first 3D printed car in 2014. The team hopes that the autonomous mini car will be able to improve the transportation-on-demand system that will be run on autonomous vehicles in the future. 
  • University of Waterloo Students Create Self-Driving Software for Golf Carts: Young designers and software students at the University of Waterloo took navigation software and integrated it with a golf cart – the result was an autonomous mini-car that can be used not only on the golf course, but also on large campuses. The vehicle has a maximum speed of 20 kms per hour and is equipped with a set GPS system and rooftop-fitted lasers that detect motion. It is expected that these vehicles will make moving around neighborhoods safe and convenient. 
  • Fugly Golf Cart Earns Distinction of Being First Autonomous Vehicle on the Market: Induct, a French start-up, made waves at the CES last year when it unveiled Navia, an autonomous golf cart that can carry up to eight persons at a time. The self-driving car operates with the help of an array of sensors, lasers, as well as camera viewpoints – factors that reduce the vehicle’s sole reliance on GPS. With this, the Navia became the first self-driving vehicle to be sold commercially on the market. The golf cart features a rechargeable battery which can be charged wirelessly. The top speed of the car is 12.5 miles an hour. 

The National University of Singapore (NUS), too, deserves a mention for creating autonomous golf carts that can be used by members of the public in gardens and other large estates. While most of these vehicles are aimed more at estate transit than at public transportation, the potential they carry is immense and it will only be a matter of time before autonomous golf carts and NEVs become ubiquitous.


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