“It’s proven to work, and it works really well, today,” states Tony Sapienza. Speaking in the above interview Sapienza, Head of Communications for North America at ZF Group, is talking about their latest generation autonomous, electric shuttle which made its debut at CES2023. As a proof point, Sapienza points to the 62 million road miles that the underlying autonomous mobility hardware and software stack have already driven.
The German-based ZF Group is the third-largest global automotive supplier, providing a variety of components used by auto manufacturers from around the world. Glimpses of some of those components are seen in the above video. As Sapienza points out, these components are integrated into their latest shuttle in a non-obtrusive way.
This shuttle is part of a system that includes route planning and maintenance. The only thing they aren’t providing is the ticketing and the operation of the service.
Honk, If You Are Ready for An Autonomous Ride #
At CES2023, they announced an agreement with Florida-based Beep to provide vehicles for Beep’s turnkey offering (which includes ticketing/operations) for municipalities, private communities, and campuses. Beep’s experience in running a service helped inform the design of the shuttle, as seen in the above video.1
Sapienza points out that the interior of the vehicle is reconfigurable to meet the needs of a particular application. For instance, it can accommodate up to 22 people for high-density routes. Or, the space can accommodate fewer people and become a mobile meeting room on wheels.
Although their sensor suite allows for these shuttles to drive in mixed traffic, Sapienza suggests that dedicated lanes and private campus applications are where these will first appear. It isn’t difficult to imagine, for instance, airports putting these in service for various shuttle applications. Production is expected in 2025 with thousands of these to be deployed in 2026.
Interview Highlights #
- 00:13 – ZF Group launches its latest Level 4, autonomous, electric shuttle at CES2023.
- 00:57 – It is more than a shuttle. It is a complete end-to-end mobility system.
- 01:15 – Beep is an important partner on ZF’s journey with this latest offering. Some of its ideal applications include private communities, university campuses, and small towns.
- 02:00 – The goal is to improve mobility for everyone.
- 03:07 – With speeds of 30 to 50 MPH, its geographical operational design domain will be somewhat limited.
- 04:03 – One of its key attributes is the ability to change the internal configuration to meet the needs of a given application.
- 04:55 – Beep influenced the design in terms of interaction and interface with the riders. The design allows for easy cleaning and maintenance.
- 05:59 – We can expect production to begin in 2025 with thousands on U.S. roads in 2026.
1 Beep has been offering an autonomous ride shuttle service for several years. As Beep CMO, Racquel Asa indicates in this video interview, the routes they serve are too far to walk, but too close to drive.