Suppliers are getting into the robo-taxi game
Robo-taxis are almost here. No longer the stuff of sci-fi movies, they're being designed and tested right now by Daimler, GM, Ford and other major OEMs. Autonomous, on-demand transport is predicted to be huge.
Indeed, as a measure of how viable the technology is and how near its application, Tier-1 suppliers are also getting into the game. Case in point: Continental. The supplier is already trialling CUbE, an autonomous shuttle that moves employees around its campus in Germany. The boxy e-vehicle can be hailed via an app. But Continental doesn't want to become a robo-taxi manufacturer.
CUbE is a vehicle – literally and figuratively – for the ancillary systems being developed by Continental, which include radar and cameras, evaluation electronics and driver-assistance systems, and which will be essential for the company's ultimate goal: cooperation with OEMs on robo-taxis -again as a supplier, but an indispensable one. CUbE itself is a good example: the shuttle itself is supplied by EasyMile, a French autonomous driving startup in which Continental has acquired a minority stake.
Continental is not the only supplier taking its involvement with robo-taxis to the next level. Delphi is experimenting with autonomous taxis in France and Singapore, and plans to spin off its self-driving business into a separate company in 2018. Bosch has struck up a partnership with Daimler for the production of robo-taxis. BMW is building alliances with others – including Continental and Delphi – for its iNEXT autonomous vehicle, planned for 2021.
They are all following the money: automated driving is expected to be a market worth around $18 billion by 2020, and $35 billion by 2025.