A recent post highlighted current self-driving tech in the STOV market and commented on the potential in the future. In the past week I came across a couple of additional examples of self-driving tech in the market.
The first is a collaboration between Polaris Industries, Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Neya Systems to provide a platform for the US Army’s Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) program. Polaris brings their MRZR vehicle platform, currently sold to US and allied military organizations around the world, to the collaboration, Neya Systems is providing advanced unmanned systems technology and ARA brings experience in bringing computer and other technical expertise to national security issues. The SMET program’s goal is to develop a ground robotic vehicle to carry a squad’s worth of life support and combat gear. An Army squad typically consists of nine soldiers. (Learn more: Businesswire.com)
The second example is California based Ridecell that is developing self-driving, low-speed vehicles for use on private property such as colleges, theme parks, business parks, retirement communities, and basically any campus like setting that can set it’s own traffic rules. Ridecell recently acquired autonomous shuttle maker Auro Robotics. Ridecell will also be providing fleet-management software and services which they already provide for BMW’s and Volkswagen’s car sharing services.The battery-electric shuttle has a top speed of 25 mph and a 90-mile range. Auro currently builds three different configurations to suit various transportation needs and is using GEMs as their base vehicle platform. They provide 2, 6 or 12 seat shuttles depending on customer need. Learn more: Greencarreports.com
Ridecell is targeting exactly the markets I mentioned in my previous post. The college campus market in particular is already a major market for GEM. However, local GEM dealers could find themselves in competition with Ridecell and indirectly with Polaris who manufactures GEM vehicles, if they end up selling directly to Ridecell. It may be useful for Ridecell, Polaris corporate and local GEM dealers to collaborate in marketing self-driving vehicles. Ridecell could significantly expand their distribution and service channel and enhance their marketing efforts, Polaris could sell more GEMs without alienating their dealer base while establishing the GEM brand in the self-driving space, and GEM dealers could provide a value-added, next generation product to their customers while adding a differentiating and potentially higher margin product to their vehicle lineup.
For GEM dealers this could also be an opportunity to grab a greater share of the gated community market. Traditionally this has been a harder sell for LSVs because of the price of LSVs in comparison to used, refurbished, new and customized golf cars. The Ridecell product however would more likely be marketed to the organization operating the community rather than individual owners, since it would be a shuttle service shared by the community. The economics would be different as well, as the shuttle service would likely need to start with a brand new vehicle. Over the long term, a self-driving shuttle service could very well significantly erode the individual vehicle market in gated communities.
Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com