Self-driving vehicles are gaining traction worldwide. Global revenue from autonomous trucks and buses is expected to reach a value of $35 billion by the end of 2022, according to Tractika.
Tractica forecasts that annual unit shipments will increase from approximately 343 vehicles in 2017 to 188,000 units in 2022.
Initially, many of these will most likely be shuttle buses transporting passengers in controlled environments. For a driverless vehicle to operate autonomously and safely, a controlled environment is the best. There are companies testing self-driving vehicles in real, everyday traffic situations with great results, but a lot of regulatory changes must happen before we will see traffic consisting of exclusively of self-driving vehicles.
For the time being, places like industrial sites, airports, tech parks and university campuses which offer mostly enclosed environments, are where we will first see self-driving vehicles employed on a large scale.
Places like airports, industrial sites, power stations or factories, tech parks and university campuses lend themselves ideally to the implementation of driverless vehicles. As do large gated communities and gated retirement villages.
Firstly, these type of environments, especially power plants and factories, are not open to the public, which means traffic and people population is at a minimum. Unlike a city centre, these are controlled environments.
Secondly, these places by their very nature place a high premium on safety. You can’t just go anywhere and do what you like at an airport. The same applies at a power station or a factory.
The business case for a driverless shuttle service
Airports and factories use many full-time drivers to run their operations. In order to run one vehicle 24/7 at least three drivers are needed that work 8-hour shifts. That translates into operational expenses that would be saved by a vehicle that doesn’t need a driver.
Places like techno parks and universities that have to employ drivers to shuttle workers and students would also benefit from driverless shuttle buses. The Straits Times reports that Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore students will be able to travel to classes on a driverless shuttle bus later this year. Other universities with spread-out campuses are bound to follow.
A possible edge for property developers
This is an idea put forward by EasyMile CEO Gilbert Gagnaire. He points to the fact that property developers have to allocate at least 40% of the land area for cars. Should property developers rather include an automatic vehicle service as part of the development, fewer roads and parking spaces would be needed. This also means that more land would be available for housing and offices which could generate more income than car parks.
Providing the shuttle service free could also be a selling point to attract buyers.
We may not be ready for a world where all vehicles are automated, but there is definitely a business case for driverless vehicles in controlled environments.
VIA provides a comprehensive range of flexible turnkey solutions for self-driving buses, coaches, and other autonomous vehicles, including VIA Mobile360 ADAS, VIA Mobile Surround View, and the VIA BLISS platform. These have been installed for a growing number of innovative applications throughout the world, including the Enchi Self-Driving EV Bus in China and in-bus security monitoring in Latin America.
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