Fisker Automotive, a US company specializing in hybrid and electric vehicles, has teamed up with the Chinese investment company Hakim Unique Group, to produce a self-driving electric shuttle for smart cities.
The new vehicle will be called the Orbit, and, from the little information known so far, will have a boxy design that will maximize passenger space, taking advantage of its driverless nature, and a huge digital display informing commuters about departure time and the next stop. It is being custom-developed for use in smart cities.
Intelligent transport is one of the integral features of smart cities, especially when these are built from scratch, meaning that bulky infrastructure -such as the roads required for driverless vehicles- is easier to install.
Shuttles, operating as share taxis, modes of transport that have semi-fixed routes, are already a popular mode of transport, especially in countries like Russia or Turkey. In the context of smart cities, a driverless electric shuttle can reduce the need for private cars, improve traffic flow and reduce emissions.
The first Orbits are expected to be delivered by the end of 2018. The plan of the two companies behind the vehicles is to initially use them as part of a smart city to be implemented by Hakim Unique Group. Of course, there is still no mention of where this city will be, or of any future plans to expand the use of the Orbit.
With Hakim Unique and Fisker having a global reach, it can be assumed that the Orbit will be targeted at several of the smart cities that are being developed or planned right now. The biggest challenge of the venture, however, will be to find cities and transportation companies that are willing to try the Orbit, as the incorporation of self-driving road vehicles in transport fleets requires a clear legal framework and a willingness to experiment with the implementation of a new technology.
The original article can be found in engadget.