We dream of a future where land-based transport and logistics would be handled by intelligent autonomous vehicles. As it turns out, that future is coming a lot sooner than expected. German automotive parts manufacturer ZF and German electric vehicle startup e.Go Mobile have announced that production for their autonomous electric minibus concept, the e.Go Mover, will begin in 2019. This announcement was made by the CEOs of both companies at the ZF Technology Day press event in Friedrichshafen.
The initial minibus concept shown at ZF Technology Day was designed as a city-based transport vehicle that can fit up to 15 people – 10 of which are seated while the remaining 5 are standing. However, ZF notes that the Mover was designed with flexibility in mind, and can be reconfigured for cargo transport, package delivery, and many other possible use cases. The e.Go Mover will be powered by a 60 kWh battery giving it an effective range of up to 150 kilometres, and its motor will be able to propel it to speeds of up to 70 km/h.
Its specs so far look quite promising on paper, but the e.Go Mover’s most ambitious features lie in its planned autonomous systems. With full autonomous capabilities, the Mover will come equipped with an array of cameras, radar, and LIDAR sensors to give the vehicle a detailed, 360-degree view of its surroundings. All of this sensory data will be processed by the ZF ProAI, a brand-new computer unit jointly developed by ZF and Nvidia. The ProAI is built upon Nvidia’s new DRIVE Xavier system-on-chip designed specifically for autonomous vehicle systems and will give the e.Go Mover the power to exercise up to Level 4 autonomy, which allows it to make decisions on its own and navigate through traffic without the need for human driver. At some point in the future, cities with the available infrastructure could allow the vehicles to communicate with each other over an Internet of Things (IoT) network, forming powerful fleets for city-wide operation.
ZF CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider notes that Level 4 autonomy is not yet ready for public roads as of now. Despite this, the e.Go Mover can be modified to accommodate a human driver, which will be the case until cars can achieve full autonomy.
Production of the e.Go Mover will begin at the e.Go manufacturing plant in Aachen, Germany, which will start out at 400 units in 2019. This number will ramp up over the subsequent years, with an estimated five-digit production figure scheduled to be reached in 2021. Scheider states that several countries are already in talks with the company to have vehicles operating on their soil. ZF and e.Go are expecting their Mover concept to revolutionise the transport and freight industries, thereby making the mobility solutions of the future available to us today.