Ready in 2024: Benteler, Beep and Mobileye to launch EV shuttles in U.S.

The autonomous, electric people mover concept took another step forward Monday. Benteler, Beep and Mobileye, a unit of Intel, announced a collaboration to bring their shuttles already in development to U.S. streets in 2024.

These self-driving shuttles would have room for 10 seated passengers and five standing with wheelchair access. The companies will work with both public transit and private groups focusing on first- and last-mile transportation networks to solve road congestion, safety and mobility needs.

“Two years will be here before you know it,” said Joe Moye, CEO of Beep, a mobility service provider that has already deployed shuttles on the streets of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, Yellowstone National Park and other locales.

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Benteler will be developing the hardware platform while Mobileye will provide its EyeQ 5 SoC’s to provide level 4 self-driving capabilities to the shuttles. They will be equipped with Mobileye’s turnkey approach of a complete sensor package per vehicle that includes 11 cameras, three primary lidars, and six shortwave lidars and radars for a secondary system.

Mobileye has been testing the safety of its AV platform on cars in various cities, including New York, Paris and Tokyo, and the system is scalable to shuttles and even larger trucks, said Johann Jungwirth, vice president of mobility as a service at Mobileye.

During recent raw winter weather in Israel, Jungwirth said Mobileye has successfully tested the AV system in snow and ice.

Benteler hopes to initially produce 1,000 to 2,000 people movers, and in a later production round, up to 15,000, all at prices attractive to public transit agencies and campuses, among others. “It will be rule- breaking, far below actual market pricing,” said Marco Kollmeier, managing director of Benteler EV Systems.   The vehicles will be designed to run at 35 mph, faster than shuttles today.

The three companies hope to use the deployment model they develop for the U.S. in other countries.

Jungwirth told reporters and analysts on a Zoom call that Mobileye’s approach is to rely on auto-generated maps created with data from other drivers in a region without the need for connections to existing street infrastructure, including streetlights.

“Infrastructure is nice to have, not a have to have,” he said. “We don’t depend on connected traffic lights. We have to work everywhere ubiquitously and robustly and it is validated by millions of hours of offline testing.”

In addition to creating safer driving conditions, Jungwirth said a primary benefit to self-driving shuttles will be the ability to give back users the daily hours of time they spend commuting.

 “Automation is just at the beginning,” Jungwirth said.  “When we look back in 10 to 20 years our kids and grandkids will say, ‘You mean there was a time when you had to drive your car and couldn’t just use an app to call a car or ride pooling?’ You can do anything on wheels. You could have an office on wheels, a movie theater or a musical hall or anything. This is just a start, and it is very exciting.”