Potential applications and business cases for autonomous shuttles are undoubtedly gaining importance, and many of the industry actors are experimenting with additional services which will transform these passenger vehicles into multipurpose services.
Here follows a summary of the most recent buzz:
- ZF Friedrichshafen has showcased two shuttle concepts, called e.Go Mover and Innovation Van, which will separately focus on passenger and delivery services.
- Continental unveiled a combined passenger and delivery concept, called Cube, where robot dogs transport packages from the shuttles to the customer’s doorstep.
- Bosch introduced a ride-sharing shuttle service where Bernd Heinrichs, the executive vice president and chief digital officer of Bosch’s smart mobility solution, pointed out the gravity of combining autonomous vehicles with working V2X solutions.
- May Mobility has begun a pilot project with self-driving shuttles (including safety drivers) transporting passengers along a 2.4-kilometre route in the city of Columbus, Ohio, which can travel up to 40 km/h.
Furthermore, other large companies like Toyota (with its recent e-Palette concept) and General Motors (working with GM’s Cruise unit) have recognised the benefits of multipurpose autonomous vehicles with a variety of use cases. A combination of passenger and delivery services would allow the vehicles to remain in continuous operation, amortizing costs for sensors, computers and maintenance, said Michael Hankel, a board member at ZF.
The autonomous shuttle sector and its development has thus far been owned and spearheaded by start-ups and new players in the mobility landscape like EasyMile, Navya, 2getthere etc. Now, it seems that the race is ramping up, with OEMs and Tier one's joining the fight. It is now up to these start-ups to try to survive and keep their lead against much larger enterprises in the mobility landscape. Who will prevail, the young and flexible that hold a head start, or the old and experienced with resources to last for years?
1. 2019-01-30. It's showtime for self-driving shuttles.