The two French startups Navya and EasyMile fight for supremacy in the autonomous e-shuttle market. Who will prevail?
Both companies have a similar concept: Both provide autonomous minibuses with a capacity of around 12 persons. The shuttles are powered by electricity and reach a top speed of 20 km/h. They navigate independently and recognize obstacles. Application fields will be public areas like airports and parks or commuter traffic. Navya and EasyMile are already testing vehicles such areas around the world.
Navya – the leader?
In my view Navya is the current market leader having already launched several testing sites. Navya vehicles have been in operation in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapur, Luxembourg, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and the London airport Heathrow. In Sion, Switzerland, for example, the testing phase was just extended. Walt Disney World in Florida plans to deploy driverless shuttles by Navya. Another Navya vehicle is currently transporting people in a French power plant and in La Défense, Paris.
Lately the startup is focusing on the USA, building a production site in cooperation with the University of Michigan. Tests are performed in M City, which is situated on the university campus. Another plus point for Navya: Since May 2017 the company is offering a complete service package including a turnkey system for 9.500 EUR (taxes not included). The offer is realized in cooperation with NEoT Capital.
EasyMile – the contender?
Like its competition EasyMile is also counting on strong cooperations – the latest deal was closed with supplier and tyre manufacturer Continental. EasyMile is getting financial support for developing tyres, sensors and safety systems for their vehicles. The EZ10 minibus is insured by Allianz and equipped with a French testing license but is also tested in California, Australia, Estonia and Germany.
Will everyone get his piece of cake?
And which company will conquer the new market? A recent study showed that not only big cities are forwarding digitization and innovative mobility concepts but also smaller communities. Especially rural areas would benefit financially from the on-demand concept with autonomous buses. Nowadays buses cover many rural routes without passengers entering because many people prefer going by car. An autonomous bus could find an intelligent route covering only the bus stations where people are waiting and leaving out the empty ones.
I personally think that the demand high enough for both startups. And I expect more companies to enter the market segment. But other startups like Local Motors are already dipping their toes in the water. Local Motors is getting much attention because the company is printing most of their vehicles.
About the author:
David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: http://www.autonomes-fahren.de