Continental has agreed to acquire a minority share participation in the company EasyMile SAS, a French autonomous driving company, which is developing driverless electric shuttles. Autonomous shuttles (or robo-taxis) are set to play a key role in efficiently addressing the “first mile – last mile challenge”, enabling seamless mobility services for urban and suburban demographics. Widespread deployment of autonomous shuttle fleets is expected to alleviate inner city congestion by enabling door-to-door public transportation at scale. In addition to Continental’s equity investment in EasyMile, the companies plan to cooperate closely in the fields of environmental sensors, braking systems and driving safety technologies. The completion of the transaction is subject to approval by the relevant antitrust authorities.
“We firmly believe that autonomous shuttles will be playing an important part in urban mobility. That’s why it’s important to incorporate the findings from current deployments into our development work, so that this new kind of individual mobility can be shaped. We are really looking forward to the collaboration with EasyMile,” said Frank Jourdan, Member of the Executive Board of Continental AG and Head of the Chassis & Safety Division during a location visit of the complete Executive Board of Continental in Toulouse, France. The expected growth of autonomous shuttles is promising and will have a considerable share of the total car sales in 2030.
“We are delighted to partner with Continental, a recognized leader in automotive technology, and known for its focus on quality. This partnership will accelerate our development of ubiquitous autonomous transportation solutions for passengers and goods. Our EZ10 vehicle is already the most widely deployed driverless shuttle globally and is a demonstration of the robustness and performance of its unique technology. We look forward to integrating Continental’s latest components and technology into our solutions to further improve performance and optimize costs,” said Gilbert Gagnaire, CEO of EasyMile SAS.
In addition to Continental’s equity investment in EasyMile, the companies plan to cooperate closely in the fields of environmental sensors, braking systems and driving safety technologies. This opens the door for Continental to numerous possible applications within EasyMile shuttles worldwide, while incorporating tried and tested large-scale production techniques from the automotive field. The first example is that the EasyMile EZ10 fleet will be running on Continental EcoContact tires with optimized tread geometry, ensuring low rolling resistance and rolling noise.
“Together with our customers Continental is pushing ahead with the development of every variant of assisted and automated driving on highways and for automated parking scenarios. The scope and the complexity of the technical systems involved in a driverless vehicle are considerable and can only be handled by a technology company with a very broad product portfolio and a holistic approach. Partnering with EasyMile will accelerate and help us to address the challenges when it comes to autonomous driving in cities,” said Ralph Lauxmann, Systems & Technology Chassis & Safety Division and Head of the Automated Driving Project House at Continental.
The complex requirements placed on driverless vehicles are already being studied under real conditions at the company premises in Frankfurt with Continental’s development platform CUbE (Continental Urban mobility Experience), which is based on an EasyMile EZ10 shuttle. Continental is following here a holistic strategy for developing both existing and new technologies for driverless vehicles. The important areas of activity are the sensor portfolio of advanced driver assistance systems, new brake concepts, passive safety solutions, new human-machine concepts plus electric drive train technologies.
The EZ10 shuttle from EasyMile is a twelve-person autonomous shuttle first released in 2014, which has been deployed in more than 50 cities across 17 countries in Asia-Pacific, North America, the Middle East and Europe. Continental began testing automated systems on public roads in 2012 in Nevada, USA. The technology company now has a globally operating fleet of development vehicles in Germany, the USA, Japan and China.