Pre-programmed trips against service on demand, industrial partnership against 3D printing … Here are the arguments of both French and American.
From the outside, it’s difficult to differentiate autonomous shuttles from the French EasyMile and Navya and, recently, the American Local Motors. Proof in an interactive image (hover over the red dots to learn more):
But to take a closer look, the three start-ups do not have as much under the hood. Review of the details of the strategies and the progress of the participants in this race for the global market for driverless public transportation.
Pre-programmed trips vs. on-demand service
To offer their services, EasyMile and Navya offer a pre-defined course, dotted with classic bus stops. This is what Navya already does in the city center of Sion, Switzerland.
Less powerful than its competitors, Olli put it, on a service on demand, facilitated by its user interface. The Local Motors Shuttle is the first vehicle to integrate IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence, based on the data gathered by the 30 embedded sensors and processed in the cloud of the American computer giant. Specifically, passengers can chat directly with the onboard computer, ask for a particular trip or take them to places to visit or restaurants where lunch. The system is for example able to drop a user in front of the nearest Chinese restaurant if he asks. The smart minibus can become a traveling tour guide.
Olli is able to drop a passenger in front of the nearest Chinese restaurant if he asks
Olli also comes standard with a smartphone app that allows travelers to request it wherever they want and when they want it in one click. It is also possible for them to follow his journey live on an interface similar to that of Uber. In addition to managing the user interface of this application, as well as the operator’s web page and the public screens installed at the stops, the Swiss start-up BestMile, which also works with Navya in Sion, has developed the technology for fleet management and optimization. The solution allows the system to adapt automatically in real time according to the traffic and dispatcher vehicles based on the data collected on the trips made in the past through machine learning.
Industrial Partnership vs. Chain Production vs 3D Printing
While the EasyMile EZ10 is manufactured on the production lines of its partner Ligier in Vichy, and Navya produces its Arma shuttles in its own factory, Local Motors is betting on 3D printing. According to the American manufacturer, each Olli would be printed in 10 hours from plastic mostly recyclable and mounted only in one hour in his workshop in the suburbs of Washington. But the newcomer on the market prefers to remain discreet about its production costs and still has not communicated the price of its autonomous shuttle, when EasyMile and Navya display a unit price between 200,000 and 250,000 euros, depending on the options.
More or less advanced projects
EasyMile and Navya are ahead of Local Motors in terms of implementation. If the American aims this year 6 cities, including 3 in the United States and 2 in Europe in particular, he did not launch on the market until June 2016 and has so far sold only 10 autonomous shuttles Olli. For its part, EasyMile took advantage of the European program CityMobil2 to experiment all over the Old Continent and prove the effectiveness of the concept, which resulted in 3 ongoing projects, in addition to a deployment in Singapore. Navya, meanwhile, is selling some fifty vehicles sold in 2016, including six for the Civaux nuclear power plant and two for the city of Sion, which is already in circulation.
Looking ahead, all three companies are anticipating growing demand. After producing about twenty EZ10 in 2016, and projects to be announced by the end of the year in Australia or Dubai, EasyMile anticipates a production of 80 units in 2017. As confided to the JDN in April 2016, Christophe Sapet, the boss of Navya, expects a growth in three figures for the next few years. But from here to see autonomous shuttles invade the city centers, the road is still long: some countries such as France are particularly cautious when it comes to putting into circulation minibus without the driver on public roads.