German car parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen AG (ZF) has announced a new partnership with US mobility provider Beep to bring a passenger shuttle capable of Level 4 autonomy to the US market.
The next-generation version of ZF’s shuttle was developed for mixed traffic and urban environments, with the company’s other model being designed for use in segregated lanes.
The term ‘Level 4 autonomy’ is given to a vehicle that can drive automatically without needing input from a human driver and can operate in most situations independently. Human drivers can still manually take control of the vehicle.
The agreement between the two companies is intended to support the delivery of several thousand shuttles to customers over the coming years, combining ZF’s autonomous transport system (ATS) with Beep’s mobility services and service management platform into a single autonomous mobility solution.
“In order to reduce traffic-related emissions in metropolitan areas, a reduction in motorised individual transport and a simultaneous expansion of more sustainable, efficient, comfortable, and affordable mobility options are required,” said Torsten Gollewski, executive vice president, autonomous mobility systems, ZF.
“Our offer of clean, efficient and affordable mobility is convincing, and has found a partner and major customer in Beep.
“This is true to our strategy of bringing autonomous driving at Level 4 into operational use first with commercial vehicles and shuttles.
“Autonomous transport systems are no longer a vision.
“We are starting with the implementation.”
According to ZF, the new model leverages sensor technology, lidar, radar, camera and audio systems to navigate its environment and provide precise detection capabilities. ZF’s ProConnect connectivity platform supports the vehicle and enables the shuttle to communicate with the infrastructure, the cloud and ZF’s supercomputer for data storage.
What’s more, ZF’s accompanying autonomous driving software was developed to processes the vehicle’s information, find safe driving strategies using artificial intelligence (AI) and pass them on as input to on-board actuators.
The car parts manufacturer claims the technology can reliably replace a human driver and eliminates the need for a steering wheel and brake.
All of ZF’s components and systems are reportedly Automotive Grade certified, meet the safety and quality requirements of the automotive industry and comply with applicable cyber security standards.
The shuttle is equipped for selectable battery capacities between 50–100 kWh, and has a range of up to 80 miles (128km) in its pure electric mode, ZF has said.
What’s more, the zero-emission vehicle was designed to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thus offering a public transport service even when demand is low. It has a maximum speed of 25mph (40km/h) and total passenger capacity of 22, with up to 15 seated.
With Beep, ZF has already established a partnership for its new shuttle generation and the two have already declared the signing of an agreement to bring the shuttle to market in the US.
Beep specialises in planning, deploying and managing autonomous shuttles for both private and public communities,
“We are excited to partner with ZF to bring their next shuttle generation to market in the United States,” said Joe Moye, CEO of Beep.
“ZF’s full suite of shuttle services, its US partner network and its automotive-grade vehicle complement our turnkey mobility networks and autonomous services technology platform.
“This shuttle will allow us to continue to pursue our vision of extending mobility equity and reducing carbon emissions, expanding our use cases while meeting industrial requirements for vehicle service life, performance and safety.”
The mobility services firm is reportedly evaluating a number of potential locations and routes for the service, with both new and existing clients.