Siemens Mobility subsidiary Eos.uptrade has integrated a ‘best price’ ticketing module into an app provided by German transport agency Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen (SSB).
Siemens says the module automatically calculates the best possible price at all times, removing the need for passengers to decide whether a single ticket, day ticket, weekly or monthly is the right choice for them.
According to Siemens, the integrated solution means once registered all relevant data is stored in the app and the payment method specified for the customer is used for monthly billing.
Andre Rodenbeck, CEO rail infrastructure at Siemens Mobility, says, “This is another example of how smart and innovative applications can intelligently integrate and coordinate transportation to create a more seamless and convenient travel experience.”
Starship Technologies, a provider of autonomous delivery services at US college campuses, is to provide deliveries from on-campus restaurants including Starbucks, Panda Express and Subway at four additional locations.
The University of Illinois Chicago, University of Kentucky, University of Nevada, Reno and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Florida campus join the list of college campuses where Starship robots provides deliveries with its fleet of over 1,000 robots.
Starship’s delivery robots began its autonomous delivery services at George Mason University in Virginia in January 2019. The service is now available across nearly 20 different campuses in 15 states.
Starship Technologies’ zero-emission robots have made more than 1.5 million autonomous deliveries, travelled millions of miles and make more than 80,000 road crossings every day.
Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Starship Technologies, says, “We’ve worked hard to become a trusted and integrated partner on our campus communities and that hard work has paid off. We are continuing to add new schools every semester, with more to be announced this fall. The students love the robots and the schools appreciate the ability to offer this service. We can’t wait to meet the students at each of these schools and look forward to hiring students on all of the campuses to give them real world experience working with robots and AI.”
Dean Kennedy, executive director of Residential Life, Housing and Food Services at University of Nevada, Reno, adds, “Everyone wants to resume in-person classes and be back on campus so we’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s done responsibly. The robots offer several advantages – they make social distancing easier, they are convenient, the students we have spoken with love this idea and they continue our heritage of being an innovative campus.”
“I never thought I’d be sharing sidewalks with a robot when I thought about going to college but they feel right at home with the coming age of innovation and technology,” says Johan Restrepo, a student at Embry-Riddle. “It seems really futuristic yet completely normal at the same time. It’s always fun to see them travelling around campus and having the option to get food delivered is a huge bonus that my friends and I can’t get enough of!”
Mercedes-Benz has developed its vehicle-to-infrastructure warning system to include the detection of potholes and speed bumps.
The newest generations of the C-Class and S-Class and the new EQS electric hatchback feature a suspension control unit that can detect and register a pothole on the Mercedes’ cloud with the information then available to other connected Mercedes vehicles.
Once the information is repeatedly detected beyond a threshold level, it will show up as an icon on the Mercedes navigation map and the vehicle will give an audible warning approximately ten seconds before the feature is reached. The alert will mention specific features such as “Look out, pothole” or “Attention, speed bump.” The warnings are available in 36 languages.
Mercedes says its cars built since 2016 are capable of receiving the warning information. Owners will need an active Mercedes Me account as well as the Car-to-X Communication feature.
Mercedes’ vehicle-to-infrastructure warning system also has the ability to detect and share information about slippery roads, cross winds, road works, accidents, breakdowns, reduced visibility, heavy rain and snow.
While this system is limited to Mercedes vehicles, other manufacturers are developing vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, massively increasing the utility of vehicle generated data with huge potential to improve road safety and provide roads authorities with highly cost effective, real-time asset condition information.
UK electric vehicle technology company Sprint Power is leading a UK government-backed project that aims to demonstrate the suitability of wireless charging technology for taxis.
Taxi ranks in the medium to large cities of Nottingham, Coventry and London are to be fitted with inductive pads allowing the vehicles to charge while waiting for the next ride. Wireless charging has the potential to increase range and by reducing the need to plug-in means vehicles can be in service for more of a driver’s shift.
The project involves a fleet of ten range-extended LEVC TX (the low emission version of London’s iconic “black cab”) and eight pure-electric Nissan models. Sprint Power has modified the vehicles for both wireless and plug-in charging and developed the charging technology.
Project partner University of Nottingham is currently commissioning the first prototype, with all vehicles due to be on-road from early autumn. Members of the public will be able to spot the special taxis by their distinctive livery, while passengers can learn more about how the technology works via posters in each vehicle.
Funding for the project has been awarded by Innovate UK, a non-departmental public body funded by the UK government and designed to drive research and development into new technologies. In addition to Sprint Power, the consortium includes CENEX (Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies), Coventry University, Nottingham City Council, Shell, Parking Energy, and Transport for London.
Founder and CEO of Sprint Power, Richie Frost, said: “We are delighted to be part of this pioneering project and are on track to deliver these custom-built products for the taxis hitting the streets of Nottingham.
“I firmly believe this exciting project underscores the importance of wireless charging technology to this country’s shift towards sustainable mobility.”
The UK’s government backed innovation agency Innovate UK has launched its UK Transport Vision 2050.
The vision sets out what the UK transport system might look like in 2050 and outlines the likely steps along the way to achieving it.
The project is described as an attempt to gather the UK government and industry around a single vision of transport as “an interconnected system that delivers for people and places”.
It is also to provoke debate, and Innovate UK is seeking feedback to help refine and improve the vision.
Within the vision, Innovate UK has identified six key areas, namely:
travel and transport demand
The vision and pathways highlight major new opportunities for economic growth and societal benefit, showing how businesses need to adapt and evolve in order to secure market position and grow.
While developed for the UK, Innovate UK says the challenges and opportunities are largely the same across the globe. The major trends identified are:
powering of transport in the future will radically change, bringing significant opportunities and risk for UK design, production and supply chains
electricity, hydrogen, ammonia and sustainable fuel will replace petroleum and create new opportunities for generation, production and distribution
greater connectivity, autonomous systems, new business models and robotics will transform transport
The Transport Vision 2050 has grown out of extensive research into the future of transport and out of consultation with partners in both the public and private sectors. The document will be regularly updated and used to inform decisions on future investments.
Siemens Mobility and business transformation consultancy everis have been awarded a five-year contract by Renfe, the national railway company of Spain, to develop and operate a countrywide, intelligent Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platform.
The platform will integrate various modes of shared and public transport, such as train, bicycle, metro, bus, car sharing, and scooter services, so passengers can identify and directly book the option that best meets their needs.
Once completed, the platform will be available in 27 cities across Spain including metropolitan areas such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and Sevilla.
“We are delighted to have been given the opportunity to accompany Renfe in their aspired transformation from a rail operator to an enabler of seamless door-to-door mobility. Our intermodal software platform and digital solutions will help deliver one of the world’s most ambitious MaaS projects, that has the potential to set new benchmarks”, said Andre Rodenbeck, CEO Rail Infrastructure at Siemens Mobility.
“MaaS is a very passenger-centred approach and significantly enhances the passenger experience and will contribute to making sustainable modes of transportation more attractive. Renfe is shaping the future of mobility in Spain and we’re proud to be part of this journey”, added Agustin Escobar, CEO of Siemens Mobility Spain and Southwest Europe region.
Renfe predicts the intermodal platform will attract a minimum of 650,000 new customers to train travel, who will generate 1.8 million new trips in five years, increasing train ticket sales in the main corridors by between 3% and 4%. Renfe’s forecast is that the new system and personalized passenger experience has the potential to provide up to €156 million of additional income in the five years following implementation.
Irish smart scooter technology company Luna and US based company JUMPWatts have announced a project to find a solution to the escalating problem of e-scooters being in the wrong location relative to user demand and discarded scooters cluttering footpaths. The companies are to work together on a pilot in the Smart DCU Campus in the Republic of Ireland.
The trial will be a real-world test for JUMPWatts’ ‘Virtual Valet’ technologies that allows an e-scooter to right itself if tipped-over, remotely re-position itself to a designated parking zone, and move when summoned to a specific location. Luna provides computer vision solutions to tackle common issues associated with e-scooter rental schemes, such as footpath riding, pedestrian collision, and improper parking.
Through the combination of the two companies’ technologies, it is envisaged that the adoption of shared e-scooter schemes will accelerate greatly by solving many of the safety and governance issues identified by city authorities across the globe.
The companies believe combining their technologies will make not only make fleet operations more cost effective for operators but will also make dockless micromobility more attractive to cities.
Additionally fleets enabled by the technology will be able to collect Smart City data ranging from road condition monitoring and crowd analytics to traffic congestion alerts and curbside management applications. The joint technologies will be tested in partnership with Smart DCU, a District of Smart Dublin. Smart Dublin is an initiative founded by Dublin’s four local authorities to trial and scale innovative mobility solutions.
Andrew Fleury, co-founder & CEO, Luna says, “We are very excited to announce our collaboration with JUMPWatts. We are both working towards similar goals of addressing safety solutions for electric scooters and the issue of e-scooter footpath clutter is one that is currently hampering numerous cities and towns across the world.”
Arun Gunasekaran, co-founder & CEO, JUMPWatts adds, “The micromobility space is ripe for innovations that not only improve the bottom line for fleet operators, but also create a better experience for users and municipalities.Our vehicle enhancement technology is a way to increase profitability and decrease chaos in the streets. Virtual Valet technology can be retrofitted to enhance existing fleets or designed into new vehicles, leading to a 95% reduction in sidewalk nuisances and up to 40% increase in fleet profitability.”
Link shared electric scooters are to be fitted with a system that detects improper scooter usage and responds by warning the rider or even stopping the scooter.
The Pedestrian Defense system is manufactured by Massachusetts-based MIT spin-off company Superpedestrian. It is however based on technology developed by California-based mobility company Navmatic, which was acquired by Superpedestrian in July.
Navmatic’s Super Fusion system combines raw GPS data with scooter sensor dynamic ride data such as speed and orientation. An onboard microprocessor uses machine-learning-based algorithms to analyse the information in real time, determining exactly where the scooter is on the street, and how it’s being used.
As a result, the scooter is automatically slowed or stopped if the user is, for instance, riding on the pavement, going the wrong way down a one-way street, aggressively swerving or repeatedly engaging in hard braking. Riders are also alerted via flashing lights and audible alarms on the scooter and receive notifications and a post-ride report on their phone.
Link says users who consistently ride safely will be rewarded with discounts on future scooter rentals, whereas those who continue to pose a hazard will be banned from using the sharing service.
Additionally the system can communicate with city officials, alerting them to locations where scooter users frequently break the rules.
Spin, Ford’s micromobility subsidiary, and Moovit, the Intel owned urban mobility app have announced a partnership in three European countries. This partnership enables Moovit users to find Spin e-scooters in the free Moovit app for “more sustainable and fun” mobility alternatives to cars to get around efficiently. It is already available in 23 cities in the UK, Spain and Germany. The agreement is similar to a collaboration between Moovit and Lime, announced in July.
Under the latest deal, Moovit users can use Spin e-scooters for the first and last mile leg of their journeys offering a covid-safe alternative to private cars. Spin’s recent rider survey showed that 82% of its riders in the UK choose to use e-scooters for short journeys instead of driving alone at least once since the launch of the scheme, reducing the number of cars and decreasing carbon emissions.
The tie-up enables Moovit users to find in real-time where a Spin e-scooter is available nearby, including how long it will take to walk there, as well as battery range. Users will then be directed to the Spin app to hire the e-scooter and pay for it.
Commenting on the partnership, Steve Pyer, Spin Country Manager for UK & Ireland said, “We want more people to integrate Spin e-scooters into their daily journeys, be it commuting, running errands or for leisure because we know that this socially-distanced means of transport has the potential to replace solo car rides on short journeys and consequently to reduce congestion and improve air quality. By showing availability in the Moovit app it makes it easier for new users to discover public hire e-scooters and for existing users to become truly multi-modal travellers.”
Yovav Meydad, Moovit’s Chief Growth and Marketing Officer added, “Whether using Spin e-scooters for short trips or combining them with public transport, this partnership furthers our mission of making it easier to rely less on private cars and moving more freely through some of the most congested cities.”
Californian micromobility company Bird is to work with cities across the world to extend its network of geofenced slow-riding zones. Dubbed Community Safety Zones, these new areas will focus on areas of high pedestrian activity, starting with schools.
Bird scooters passing through these new Community Safety Zones will automatically reduce their maximum allowable speed to 13 Km/h and trigger an in-app message explaining the reason for the deceleration. The areas will also be clearly visible on the in-app Bird service map, allowing riders to plan their routes accordingly.
“It is fantastic when companies innovate to support community traffic safety,” said Jenn Fox of campaign group Vision Zero Network. “Community Safety Zones can support localities working to improve safety for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. We’re impressed by the initiative and Bird’s efforts to listen to local communities and respond to community feedback.”
The Community Safety Zones will be piloted in Miami, Marseille and Madrid. Based on the results of these first programs, Bird says it will work with elected officials and community organizations over the coming weeks to implement new geospeed areas across all of Bird’s more than 250 global partner cities, potentially expanding the program to include parks and shopping centres.
A new contactless tap to ride bus fare payment system in California marks the early stages in a programme designed to make it easier to use public transportation by improving trip planning and simplifying payments across transit modes.
The new fare payment system is part of a six-month demonstration with the California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP), an initiative of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to simplify travel by increasing access to public transit—including paying for trips by tapping an on-board payment reader with their contactless debit, credit, prepaid card or mobile wallet on smart devices.
This new transit payment experience is being offered initially on the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments’ (SBCAG) long-distance commuter bus service, Clean Air Express, and two adjoining bus routes (12X and 24X) operated by the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (SBMTD). As the demos progress, SBMTD hopes to offer a tap-to-ride service on more lines.
Key partners in the project are transit payment processor Littlepay, and ticketing technology specialist Kuba.
Kuba’s off-the-shelf system provides cEMV card validation and processes secure contactless payments, with Littlepay providing transit payment processing—including tap aggregation, fare capping, deny list management and automatic debt recovery. Cybersource, a Visa solution, provides a connection to Elavon US for acquiring services.
Amin Shayan, CEO at Littlepay, says, “The system we’ve created is a great example of our modular approach to contactless fare payment, working with a range of pre-integrated ‘Littlepay Ready’ partners to deliver an end-to-end solution—from point of tap to settlement of funds.”
The tap to ride payment system is designed to motivate greener travel. The demo includes the Clean Air Express, a commuter bus service launched in the 1990s to reduce air pollution caused by commuters in single-occupancy cars. Under the new fare payment system, riders who tap to ride will receive a discount on fares, paying $6 (a $1 one-way fare discount) for each one-way journey until a $10 daily cap or a $150 30-day cap is triggered—after which no further payment will be charged within the capping period.
“Older fare collection systems create unnecessary barriers for people to ride and choose public transit,” said Marjie Kirn, executive director of SBCAG, which operates the Clean Air Express. “With the new contactless payment system, customers can now pay their fare in the same way they can buy a coffee or groceries by simply tapping a credit or debit card, or using a mobile wallet on a smartphone or watch, with no registration or account set up needed.”
Argo AI, Lyft and Ford have announced they are working together to commercialise autonomous ride hailing at scale in the US. Ford’s self-driving cars, with safety drivers, will be rolled-out on the Lyft network, as part of a network access agreement, with passenger rides beginning in Miami in 2021 and in Austin, Texas, starting in 2022.
This initial phase will lay the groundwork for scaling operations, as the parties are now working to finalise agreements aiming to deploy at least 1,000 autonomous vehicles on the Lyft network, across multiple markets over the next five years.
In order to support self-driving vehicle at scale, Ford has established a robust presence in Miami, Austin and Washington, DC. This includes operations to support commercial fleets, including fuelling, servicing and cleaning.
Lyft will receive 2.5% of the common equity of Argo AI as part of the licensing and data access agreements to collaborate on the safe commercialisation of autonomous vehicles.
Lyft co-founder and CEO, Logan Green, says, “This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way. Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality.”
Scott Griffith, CEO, Ford Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility Businesses, says, “These three companies share a belief that autonomous vehicles will be a key enabler for a cleaner, safer and more efficient urban mobility landscape. This is the beginning of an important relationship between three dynamic companies ultimately aiming to deliver a trusted, high-quality experience for riders in a multi-city large scale operation over time.”
Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO, Argo AI, adds, “This collaboration is special because we’re executing on a shared vision for improving the safety, access to and affordability of transportation in our cities. Beyond the link that Lyft provides to the customer, we’ll be able to work together to define where an autonomous service will benefit communities the most and ensure we’re deploying the technology safely.”
Mercedes-Benz has pledged to go all electric by the end of the decade, where market conditions allow. Shifting from electric-first to electric-only, the luxury car company says it is accelerating toward an emissions-free and software-driven future.
By 2022, Mercedes-Benz will have battery electric vehicles (BEV) in all segments the company serves. From 2025 onwards, all newly launched vehicle architectures will be electric-only and customers will be able to choose an all-electric alternative for every model the company makes.
“The EV shift is picking up speed – especially in the luxury segment, where Mercedes-Benz belongs. The tipping point is getting closer and we will be ready as markets switch to electric-only by the end of this decade,” said Ola Källenius, CEO of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG.
And in what Källenius decribes as “a profound reallocation of capital”, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a comprehensive plan which includes significantly accelerating R&D. In total, investments into battery electric vehicles between 2022 and 2030 will amount to over €40 billion.
Plans include eight battery Gigafactories and the company says it intends to team up with new European partners to develop and efficiently produce future cells and modules. including solid-state technology which offers higher energy density and safety.
“Our main duty in this transformation is to convince customers to make the switch with compelling products. For Mercedes-Benz, the trailblazing EQS flagship is only the beginning of this new era,” Källenius said.
Moovit and Lime have announced a global partnership that will integrate Lime’s scooters, mopeds, and cycles into the Moovit app across more than 100 cities in 20 countries.
The partnership will see Lime’s vehicles added to the Moovit app in cities across the US, Europe, South Africa, and Australia. Moovit says a 40 further cities will be added imminently.
When a user opens the Moovit app on the “Directions” screen, they can plan their journey. However, if they switch to the “Stations” screen, they can see nearby Lime vehicles. From there, they will be able to select Lime as a journey option before being directed to the Lime app from where they can unlock the bike, scooter, or moped.
“This partnership signifies that mobility companies recognize the need to collaborate together to offer riders more convenient modes of public and shared transportation as they return,” says Nir Erez, Moovit Co-founder and CEO.
“Offering more alternative options that can easily get people to their destinations is a critical component of a MaaS platform, especially in some of the most congested cities in the world. From Buenos Aires to Berlin, we are excited to partner with Lime and offer riders more ways of getting around town that can easily combine with public transit.”
This new partnership is the largest micromobility integration to date, according to Moovit, based on the number of cities involved.
“In addition to being the largest micromobility integration to date, our partnership with Moovit is a major step towards our goal of expanding access to shared, affordable and carbon-free transportation to more users around the world,” says Wayne Ting, Lime CEO.
“As cities begin to reopen and commuters head back to offices, we want to make it as easy as possible for riders to locate a Lime electric bike, scooter or moped, and with the Moovit app, they’ll be able to use them seamlessly in tandem with public transit.”
Electric Assisted Vehicles Limited (EAV), the Oxford, England-based sustainable zero-emissions vehicle manufacturer, has released renderings of its new LINCS model, a modular multipurpose lightweight vehicle designed to provide urban light commercial van capability.
LINCS has been designed in association with Saietta Group, whose new in-hub electric motors will power a lightweight skateboard platform. The LINCS platform will contain enclosed Li-ion batteries and become the basis of the new modular vehicle.
“The operational requirements for LINCS are both complex but also required a simple solution,” says Adam Barmby, CEO and Founder of EAV. “We wanted to produce a multipurpose light commercial vehicle as a logistics platform to transform the way we move people and goods around our urban environment.
“Positive disruption is needed right now”, he adds. “The electrification of current fleets simply isn’t any kind of real solution. We’ve comprehensively analysed the inefficiencies in the current transportation of goods and people.”
LINCS, in its logistics role, acts as a fully dynamic ‘hub-and-spoke’ mobile depot vehicle, delivering EAVRoRo boxes to EAV eCargo fleets in various different dynamic optimised locations such as forecourts or car parks. This significantly reduces stem distances and increases operational efficiency within the last mile. LINCS will also be able to operate as a simple covered urban van or open pick-up or drop side. The uniqueness of the design and engineering is in its versatility, packaging, light weight, strength and in the understanding of current and future urban cargo operations which we’ve already been successfully developing with our current EAV models.”
LINCS is built on an aluminium skateboard chassis platform utilising two linked in-hub motors from Saietta Group. The chassis itself contains EAV’s standard removable interchangeable Li-ion battery pack providing a range of up to 100 miles within an urban or intra-urban environment. The driver’s cab is located either on the left or righthand side of the LINCS, depending on the market, and is equipped with ‘EAVAdvanced’ driving controls and in-cab systems. LINCS has been designed and future-proofed for fully autonomous operations. Uniquely, LINCS also features a ‘Road train’ capability where, on inter-urban or urban deployments, multiple LINCS can be linked together into a single autonomous vehicle.
“EAV is much more than an eCargo bike company. We’re a transport technology solutions business.” commented Nigel Gordon-Stewart, Executive Chairman at EAV. “We developed and launched the EAV2Cubed and its predecessor the EAVan as the foundation of a complete urban Future Transport vision conceived from a blank sheet of paper. In a new, environment and resource conservation-focused world, legacy automotive design and engineering solutions simply don’t work. They’re too heavy, too big and, from a resource and environmental point of view, are just wasteful. LINCS is the next step in our programme which sees a complete replacement of legacy urban road transport with new, sustainable, zero-emissions, environmentally-friendly, safe – but extremely efficient – solutions for cargo and passengers.”
The UK Government has published its long-awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan which provides a ‘greenprint’ to cut emissions from “seas and skies, roads and railways, setting out a pathway for the whole transport sector to reach net zero by 2050”.
The plan is based around commitments focused on:
increasing cycling and walking
zero emission buses and coaches
zero emission cars, vans, motorcycles and scooters
accelerating maritime and aviation decarbonisation
It also set out targets for phasing out the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles – with a 2035 phase out date for vehicles weighing from 3.5-26 tonnes and 2040 for vehicles weighing more than 26 tonnes. This builds on the commitment last year to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine cars from 2030 and hybrids from 2035.
“Transport is not just how you get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, cities, and countryside, our living standards and our health. It can shape all those things for good, or for bad,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“Decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It’s about how we make sure that transport shapes quality of life and the economy in ways that are good.
“The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is just the start – we will need continued efforts and collaboration to deliver its ambitious commitments, which will ultimately create sustainable economic growth through healthier communities.”
Responding to the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Cllr David Renard, Transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, “the national voice of local government”, said, “Given that transport is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan is key to how the country will achieve its net-zero ambition.
“Councils are already doing a lot to reduce carbon and other harmful emissions to protect their communities and the environment, by investing in cycle lanes, clean air zones, better public transport and EV charging infrastructure. However, the scale of the challenge requires a collaborative approach between local and national government, industry and our communities.
“In order to support local government in its role of leading places and providing a greener future, councils want to work with government and business to establish a national framework for addressing the climate emergency, supported by long-term funding, guidance for individuals and clarity on the practical steps that will be needed locally to help the public to transition to more sustainable forms of transport.”
Human efforts to achieve flight date back to the ancient world, says Rani Plaut, CEO and Co-Founder of AIR. Clearly the Wright brothers’ 1903 triumph hardly marked the end of this millennia-long quest for elevated mobility, but are we about to experience a paradigm shift in personal aviation?
Less than a generation after the Wright brothers’ success at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Glenn Curtiss introduced the first “flying car,” dubbed the Autoplane, at the 1917 Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition. From The Jetsons to Blade Runner: 2049, popular culture is filled with futuristic visions of worlds where people move from A to B in flying vehicles.
Of course, such vehicles have yet to hit the skies. There was even a popular Internet meme about how the realities (and absurdities) of 21-Century life fail to match up with long-ago predictions that we’d all be whizzing around in a flying-car utopia by now.
But recent technological advances have fuelled a burgeoning Electric Vehicle Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) scene, with investors pumping billion into innovative startups in the hopes of seeing Curtiss’s century-old dream take flight.
With forecasters predicting that the eVTOL market will ascend to $14.7 billion by 2041, the coming decades will give rise to a new mobility ecosystem that truly reflects humans’ longstanding ambition to touch the skies – not only on the occasional business trip or a family vacation but in their everyday lives.
Halted Mobility in the Era of COVID-19
As recently as one year ago, the wide-open skies seemed to have closed in. The nascent COVID-19 pandemic ground air travel to a virtual halt in the late winter and early spring, with international air travel plunging 60% over the course of 2020. Predictions that flights wouldn’t return to pre-pandemic levels until mid-decade seemed far from unreasonable. Few would have expected that US flights leading into the Independence Day 2021 holiday weekend would actually exceed those levels – but they did, underscoring the resilience of the human desire to hit the skies and see the world.
At the same time, the pandemic – which has significantly diminished but is not yet over – has spurred a new look at more personal, social distancing-friendly forms of travel, which helps explain why personal auto sales have surged of late. This development is where our abiding desire to move around and seek out new forms of adventure dovetails with the resurgent interest in private forms of mobility.
A Mobility Renaissance
From expanding drone delivery programs to increasing demand for cleaner, greener forms of transportation amid global climate change, the eVTOL market is poised to benefit from larger commercial and economic trends that have reshaped how people think about air transportation and fostered greater interest in alternatives to traditional vehicles.
As with any new form of transportation, public acceptance will be a key barrier for the eVTOL market to overcome.
Developing a robust urban air infrastructure and a viable set of regulatory standards will not only accelerate the industry’s growth but will also help soothe public fears about this newfangled technology. Deloitte projects that following a wave of successful pilot programs and growing public acceptance, autonomous passenger eVTOLs will see greater adoption beginning in 2030, with production costs plunging as manufacturers achieve economies of scale and battery costs decrease.
That means that the next decade will be critical in formulating the regulatory policies and developing the technologies necessary to make flying cars an everyday reality for consumers across the globe.
What starts as an impossible dream often becomes humdrum within a remarkably short span of time. And while flying cars have existed in the popular imagination for well over a century, they’re closer than ever to going from the stuff of science fiction and Internet memes to conveying passengers on their daily commutes. After a year when the skies seemed harder to reach than at any time in recent history, we’re on the cusp of reaching unprecedented heights of innovation and human achievement.
Rani Plaut is CEO & Co-Founder of AIR
About AIR – promising a paradigm shift in personal aviation
Israeli eVTOL start-up AIR is promising a “paradigm shift in personal aviation” based on what it calls “airEVs for the consumer market”. The company’s vision is for a “private electric aircraft parked by your house”. It says it combines sustainable aerospace innovation with automotive know-how to create airEVs that offer intuitive ‘fly by intent’ handling and a one-of-a-kind user-centric experience for the everyday flier.
While the vast majority of the sector is focused on building commercially piloted or autonomous air taxis for cities, AIR offers an alternative for those who want “to enjoy the ultimate freedom of flying on their own terms”. Thanks to its vertical take-off and landing capabilities and cutting-edge flight control system, the company’s vehicles, it says, offer a completely new and sustainable way to get to any destination.
“Everybody wants to fly, and with AIR, they finally can. We’re creating a fun and functional personal airEVs that will blaze a path towards a new era of air mobility accessible to everyone,” said AIR CEO and Co-Founder, Rani Plaut. “Our company is building airEVs for the reality we live in and the future of our dreams, putting usability, safety and thrill at the forefront of every product decision so we can put the power of flight in every person’s hands.”
Energy company bp has launched a trial EV subscription service designed to help ride hail drivers in London transition to electric vehicles.
The bp EV Pro package offers an all-in-one subscription product which includes a new private hire licensed electric vehicle, unlimited charging, insurance and roadside assistance.
Deepshikha Vasishta, global fleet director, bp said “Fleets of electric taxis will be key in the future, but our research has shown that the upfront cost and the complexity of leasing, insuring, charging and keeping an unfamiliar vehicle on the road is preventing drivers from making the switch.”
The new subscription service is designed to overcome these blockers and is supported by mobility software and business model provider Tomorrow’s Journey. Specifically, its JRNY smart mobility platform simplifies and speeds up the driver onboarding process by integrating with third parties allowing validation checks, which have previously been done manually and often taking days, to be completed in under 10 minutes.
Tomorrow’s Journey CEO Chris Kirby said, “The key to delivering the ambitious service levels the bp team required was simplifying the process and keeping the number of interactions with the driver to a minimum. A highly automated back-office system is just as important as a slick front end user journey.”
Furthermore, adds Kirby, shared neutral fleets across multiple rental-based mobility products are the only answer to the rapidly changing automotive finance market. And in the case of EV Pro it was the combination of the bp brand and Tomorrow’s Journey’s technical expertise and agile approach that was key to bringing the project to market quickly. bp plans to roll out and trial its cars-as-a-service product to ride hail drivers in London.
Spain will invest Euro 4.3 billion to kick-start the production of electric vehicles and batteries as part of a major national spending programme financed mostly by European Union recovery funds.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the government-run plan would include the whole production chain, giving grants to companies with the goal of building the country’s first battery plant and boosting manufacturing of electric vehicles.
“It is important for Spain to react and to anticipate this transformation in Europe’s automotive sector,” he said, adding the private sector could contribute a further 19.7 billion euros to the initiative from 2021 to 2023, according to government estimates.
After Germany, Spain is Europe’s second-largest car producer. As the industry confronts a rapid transformation to electric mobility, the country is pushing to overhaul supply chains and retool its manufacturing bases to ensure it maintains this position.
With the new investment, part of a Euro 13 billion package earmarked for sustainable mobility, Sanchez expects the sector’s contribution to economic output to reach 15% by 2030, from around 10% now.
The programme, maintains the Government, could create up to 140,000 new jobs and boost the national economy.
It aims for the number of new electric vehicles registered to reach 250,000 in 2023, a big jump from the 18,000 registered in 2020, thanks to government-sponsored initiatives to buy low emission cars and expand charging stations.
As one of the main beneficiaries of the Euro 750 billion EU recovery scheme, Spain will get around Euro 70 billion in grants until 2026 to help revive its economy, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
While few private sector bidders have publicly emerged to seek a slice of the funds, Volkswagen’s Spanish brand SEAT and utility Iberdrola have formed an alliance to work on a bid.
Their involvement would fit within a wider project they are planning, covering all elements of electric vehicle production from mining to battery production to the manufacturing of a finished vehicle at SEAT’s assembly plant outside Barcelona.
German energy storage systems developer Tesvolt has become a shareholder in Munich-based Stercom Power Solutions, which develops inductive charging technology. The investment aims to accelerate the development of wireless charging and potentially dynamic inductive roads.
Wireless charging involves transferring electrical energy in an inductive process from a magnetic coil in or on the road pavement to a receiver coil in the vehicle. This allows for many short but high-speed charging processes – for example at shopping centres, in multi-storey car parks or even at home. Car makers including Audi and BMW are already installing charging coils in new vehicle models.
“Stercom is a complete technology specialist and one of the first to develop really good products in the field of inductive charging,” explains Simon Schandert, founder and Chief Technical Officer at Tesvolt. “Our aim is to work together to bring highly efficient charging systems to the market and even in the medium term to enable inductive supercharging with up to 200 kW charging power. This would also make it more efficient to charge while driving in the future.”
But the big problem to date is capacity. “So far the only wireless charging suitable for mass-production offers just 3.2 kW. We want to introduce an inductive charging station with a charging power of 44 kW, which is 14 times faster,” explains Daniel Hannemann, founder and Commercial Director at Tesvolt.
Of particular interest to Tesvolt is Stercom’s breakthrough silicon carbide technology that offers 95% efficiency and works at a distance of up to 20 cm between the sender and receiver coils. This says Hannemann is something no other provider has been able to do. Stercom has also developed intelligent charging stations which, for instance, show the driver the right parking position for the vehicle over the magnetic coil.
“Short and frequent charging dispenses with the need for large car batteries. This significantly lowers the price of electric vehicles while making them lighter and therefore more efficient,” says Robert Sterff, founder and CEO at Stercom.
There are still significant challenges when it comes to inductive charging. Short and powerful charges place high demands on batteries and the issue of how to pay for wireless charging is yet to be resolved.
Electric vehicle wireless power transfer systems is still in the development stage, says Sterff. But test sections of road with magnetic coils under the asphalt are already in place in Italy, France and Sweden. “Wireless charging is the future,” concludes Sterff.