Sunday 22nd September 2019

‘Robo taxis’ from Tesla and ride-sharing consolidation across Europe

Published on April 29th, 2019

It’s been a busy month in fleet, says Antony Savvas, not least with stirrings at Tesla. Following on from posting a record-breaking quarterly loss of US$702 million (€629 million) on lower than expected sales of $4.5 billion (€4 billion), company boss Elon Musk insisted he was serious about having a million fully self-driving Tesla “robo taxis” on the road by 2020.

I’m sure he knows 2020 is next year, but who am I to argue with the man, no one else can. I look forward to these unmanned vehicles roaming the streets waiting to pick me up from the pub.

AI investment

Antony Savvas

A seemingly more deliverable development came from Berlin-headquartered Teraki. It raised $2.3 million (€2 million) in additional funding for its mission to provide “breakthrough AI” (artificial intelligence) and edge data processing software, to meet what it said were the “exploding data demands of the $395 billion automotive electronics industry”.

Total funding to date amounts to $5.3 million (€4.7 million). Its new backers include those interested in bringing improved data-driven products to the automotive insurance industry. When embedded in automotive systems, the company’s AI software is said to enable hardware to process more than 10 times more data without loss of information. The ultimate aim is to produce more accurate data through training and running machine learning methods on that data on behalf of customers.

Teraki says it drastically reduces energy consumption and heat production due to lower computational tasks, while still delivering the algorithm detection and prediction performance that are essential for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles.

On the fleet connectivity side of things, Inseego this month promised more reliable edge connectivity for first responders with its “unbreakable” IoT/Wi-Fi/5G ruggedised mobile fleet routers.

The Skyus 300 and 500 series LTE-A Pro edge routers are said to deliver “secure and reliable” peak 1.2 Gbps LTE speeds in “harsh environments”. They conform to MIL-STD 810G military-grade security specifications, and will no doubt help emergency response teams deal with any incidents that happen as a result of Tesla’s rushed driverless taxi service.

Co-wheels goes to Oply

Also in April, leading UK independent car-share operator Co-wheels Car Club announced it had become part of the Oply car-sharing network which is expanding in Europe.

Co-wheels is now part of Oply UK, a new joint venture controlled by Oply owner and Luxembourg-based ExaMotive SA and China’s SAIC Motor, owners of the iconic British motoring brand MG.

Co-wheels currently operates car-sharing in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK, to enable people to benefit from “socially inclusive, affordable and low emission car hire by the hour” as a practical alternative to private car ownership. It also delivers fleet management to major corporate and public sector organisations to improve fleet utilisation and efficiency.

Oply already serves multiple German cities and the service is soon to be rolled out across other European countries too.

SAIC Europe vice president, Jerry Hong says: “We expect our new MG full electric products will be part of ExaMotive and Co-wheels’ fleets and will be well accepted by customers in the near future.”

Hamburg expands its ride options

That deal came as new ride pooling service MOIA – the newest company of the Volkswagen Group – was being launched in Hamburg. Up to 500 electric vehicles will be available across Germany’s second largest city.

With various other shared mobility services available – such as CleverShuttle, ioki and mytaximatch – Hamburg is one of Europe’s most innovative cities when it comes to ride-sharing or ride-pooling. All these services are booked via an app and can be combined with each other.

Michael Westhagemann, Hamburg’s minister for the economy, transport and innovation, says: “Innovation is essential to making mobility in Hamburg more environmentally friendly, quieter and safer. Ride-sharing services are bridging the gap between taxis and local public transport – the number of journeys for individual passengers is being decreased, and urban traffic is being reduced overall.”

The author is freelance technology writer, Antony Savvas.

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