Robot shuttles just got serious. The first large orders have been placed. More of the world’s giant companies have entered the fray, some even likely to be both customers and manufacturers. On cue, analyst IDTechEx has launched a new report, “Robot Shuttles for Smart Cities 2021-2041” to explain the new realities and to present technology roadmaps and forecasts for 20 years ahead.
Robotaxis are a partially competing option. They are autonomous, battery-electric cars operated by the likes of Uber and taxi companies. Private cars are only used a few percent of the time and then only rarely full. When autonomous, they may be bought by people with less money because they can be lent to Uber as robotaxis when not in use. If you believe Elon Musk.
The new report maps and predicts how robot shuttles are very different, nothing short of a new form of transport being created from the ground up by about 40 organisations. These boxes on wheels are designed for smart cities and for more than road travel. Usually maximum speed is gated at 30-60 km/hr. Front-back-symmetrical means no U turns so they can quietly, cleanly go where cars are banned – down paths, into shopping malls, over plazas. Some even have crab-action sideways. Unlike a regular taxi or car, large sliding doors create fast entry/exit even of the disabled in wheelchairs. These doors do not swing open to kill cyclists nor do they prevent exit in confined spaces.
Uniquely, robot shuttles are made to be rapidly reconfigurable for multiple tasks even in one day with many formats, signage changes etc. Most have standing room and all-round large windows prevent claustrophobia compared to a robotaxi. The windows can contain the new microLEDs selling advertising. Standing room minimizes cost and road footprint per passenger.
See new infograms, tables and graphs comparing all options and new technology commitments from 2021 such as solar bodywork. Absorb other ideas and benchmarking from multi-lingual PhD level IDTechEx analysts across the world.
Latest news is that the projects are splitting into small and large sizes. 4-6 seaters are not very versatile and compete with robotaxis in locations penetrated. They have lowest cost but limited ability to get people with monster bags to the airport at speed. More mainstream is the larger ones typically 10-25 passengers including standing. These can additionally compete with school, micro and midi buses, even last mile package delivery and repurpose to mobile libraries, fast food, temporary event ticketing stands and more. However, it now emerges that some of this is achievable electrically but some is best done with new modular body replacement allowing repurposing through the day or the week. The report therefore covers all this new progress and platforms.
Questions answered by the report include:
- Forecasts numbers and value 2021-2041?
- Addressable market segments in detail and strategy options?
- Potential smart city partners and services?
- Results of trials from Japan to Europe and USA. Options of empowerment, inner city circulator etc.?
- Technology roadmaps 2021-2041?
- Detailed profiles on most players with IDTechEx SWOT reports matched to market?
- Dead ends and doomed projects with reasons set against likely winners?
- Leaders in modularisation, market trials, orders landed, speed of transitioning to second generation?
- 360 degree wheels, new motors and batteries, autonomy technology detail, issues and economics, structural and transparent electronics, solar, smart windows. Who? When? Why?
The 595 page report “Robot Shuttles for Smart Cities 2021-2041” is unique in being so thorough and up-to-date and being written by globally acknowledged experts. It seeks to give an easily-absorbed commercial look at the technology, applications and business opportunities worldwide. That involves over 100 new infograms, graphs, comparison tables, photographs and diagrams. The report is so thorough, it even forecasts the associated business of autonomous buses and reveals the social benefits of everything planned. There is much news from 2021 assessed here and the report is regularly updated so you get the latest.
The Executive Summary and Conclusions explains the basics, gives over 20 key conclusions, detailed comparison tables of projects and all those forecasts, surfacing how they are evolving into key technology and applicational families now. It is sufficient in-itself for those with limited time. The Introduction then compares bus and robot shuttle types with detailed tables and images. See relative efficiencies, scope for vehicles that go where others are banned, vehicle populations worldwide, date and impact of peak car with reasons. Here are visions for robot shuttles and lessons from trials of very different business cases.
Chapter 4 is a long one because it covers 39 projects in 20 countries with trials, customers, technologies, uniques, shortcomings, dreams and the IDTechEx SWAT report in each case. Chapter 5 then concerns next technology other than autonomy for it is this that can sell more product by making shuttles more useful, lower cost, longer range. Indeed, vehicle-to-grid and window advertising with light-emitting video are among the ways of earning extra income streams that are described here. This is such a fertile area that many robot shuttle services such as school runs will offered free of charge.
The following chapters are a very detailed look at autonomy technology revealing cost and performance issues and best routes to safe, affordable, acceptable, insurable autonomous robot shuttles everywhere. The report then ends with detail on those new bright transparent micro LED displays that can make the many windows readable in the dark from inside and outside to loudly proclaim repurposing (UPS, School Bus etc.) and sell that advertising.