Optimism for Autonomous Shuttles Despite Recent Setbacks

Two autonomous shuttle companies closed last week, but one industry observer sees reasons for optimism for the long-term viability of the still-speculative market.

January 19, 2022, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Brad Templeton provides commentary on the demise of two autonomous shuttle companies in the space of a week: Optimus Ride, an autonomous shuttle company in Boston, and Local Motors, maker of the Olli shuttle. 

In examining the two closures for lessons about the viability of the autonomous vehicle industry, Templeton notes the numerous players in the shuttle market, "including May Mobility, early pioneer Navya, EasyMile, 2getThere, Transdev, Auro/Ridecell and many other players in China." The size of the market is enabled by smaller barriers to entry compared to the personal car industry, according to Templeton. But those smaller barriers to entry also imply smaller ambitions:

The robotaxi vision is world-changing because it allows car replacement, which means a big change in how our cities work. Shuttles are much less ambitious. Mostly, they make transit a bit cheaper, which is far from world-changing. It’s a pretty meager thing for self-drive technology to be doing.

And autonomous shuttles have yet to achieve even those "meager" advancements—shuttles still aren't very cheap because of the safety driver. Still, Templeton sees opportunities from the current obstacles, including the ability to operate frequent, 24/7 transit without drivers (which are in short supply) and more efficient mode switching.

More details of Templeton's optimism are available at the source article below.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 in Forbes

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