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Robot shuttles double as robotaxis

14 September 2020

As IDTechEx predicted in its report, “Robot Shuttles and Autonomous Buses 2020-2040”, robot shuttles are converging with robotaxis.

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Robot shuttles are a new type of vehicle that is limited to slow speeds for cities. Being silent, robotic and emission-free, they are expected to be allowed over piazzas and through indoor malls to deliver children and the severely disabled right to their destination, safe and dry. Cleverly, their special boxy symmetric designs mean they never need to do a U-turn, so they access the tiniest spaces. They are designed to rapidly reconfigure as “last mile” freight carriers, mobile restaurants, school buses and display lucrative wide-area advertising. 

In contrast, robotaxis are analysed in the IDTechEx report. They are autonomous, road-only taxis going fast and far for a lower cost than manned taxis due to intensive use, some being lent by private owners for part of the day. Physically they are little more than a regular car, like a Tesla X.

Now, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) has presented a mobility ecosystem for autonomous electric vehicles for sharing services, under the name PONS. At the heart of the ecosystem is the autonomous Sango electric vehicle for up to six passengers. NEVS says there is no reason to own an autonomous vehicle. PONS, cheaply, goes anywhere on city roads. Its new pilot project in Stockholm will operate ten Sango robot shuttles in robotaxi mode. Maximum speed is 9mph, later 31mph. However, although Toyota will use its E-Palette smart shuttles in its demonstration smart city at the base of Mount Fuji and the Tokyo Olympics, most car makers are ambivalent as both options mean less vehicles need to be manufactured. Leaders in robot shuttles are mainly new companies and they find it easy to get city and financial backing. Time will tell what the killer concept is. 

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