Automotive technology company Continental has agreed to acquire a minority share in the French autonomous vehicle company EasyMile SAS, which is developing driverless electric shuttles.
Autonomous shuttles are set to play a key role in efficiently addressing the ‘first-mile last-mile’ challenge, enabling seamless mobility services for urban and suburban areas. Widespread deployment of autonomous shuttle fleets is expected to alleviate innercity congestion by enabling door-to-door public transportation at scale.
In addition to Continental’s equity investment in EasyMile, the companies plan to cooperate closely in the fields of environmental sensors, braking systems, and driving safety technologies. This opens the door for Continental to trial numerous possible applications within EasyMile shuttles worldwide, while incorporating tried-and-tested large-scale production techniques. The EasyMile EZ10 fleet will now be running on Continental’s EcoContact tires with optimized tread geometry, ensuring low rolling resistance and noise.
The complex requirements placed on driverless vehicles are already being studied under real conditions at Continental’s premises in Frankfurt, with the company’s CUbE (Continental Urban mobility Experience) development platform, which is based on an EasyMile EZ10 shuttle. Continental is following a holistic strategy for developing both existing and new technologies for driverless vehicles, focusing on the sensor portfolio of advanced driver assistance systems, new brake concepts, passive safety systems, new human-machine concepts, and electric drivetrains.
First released in 2014, the 12-person EZ10 autonomous shuttle has been deployed in more than 50 cities across 17 countries worldwide. Continental began testing automated systems on public roads in 2012 in Nevada, USA, and now has a globally operating fleet of development vehicles in Germany, the USA, Japan and China.
“We are delighted to partner with Continental, a recognized leader in automotive technology, and known for its focus on quality. This partnership will accelerate our development of ubiquitous autonomous transportation solutions for passengers and goods,” said Gilbert Gagnaire, CEO of EasyMile.
“Our EZ10 vehicle is already the most widely deployed driverless shuttle globally and is a demonstration of the robustness and performance of its unique technology. We look forward to integrating Continental’s latest components and technology into our solutions to further improve performance and optimize costs.”
Frank Jourdan, Continental board member, commented, “We firmly believe that autonomous shuttles will be playing an important part in urban mobility. That’s why it’s important to incorporate the findings from current deployments into our development work, so that this new kind of individual mobility can be shaped.”