California mobility company Ridecell wants to revolutionize self-driving electric shuttles on private property


Auro electric self-driving shuttle

Auro electric self-driving shuttle

Enlarge Photo

One California company has a different idea to ensure self-driving cars earn their "training wheels," so to speak.

Instead of deploying self-driving cars on public roads, California-based mobility company Ridecell wants to tackle private properties with electric self-driving shuttles.

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The company recently acquired Auro, which built an autonomous shuttle used to transport students and faculty at Santa Clara University, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The battery-electric shuttle has a top speed of 25 mph and a 90-mile range and Auro builds three different configurations to suit various transportation needs.

Once the battery is depleted, the charging system adds 30 miles of range every hour.

Auro electric self-driving shuttle

Auro electric self-driving shuttle

Enlarge Photo

With the deal, Ridecell intends to expand its business into private property—places where business or campuses set their own traffic rules.

Ridecell vice president Mark Thomas said places like theme parks, resorts, business parks, retirement communities, and other locations could benefit from the autonomous transit system.

The mobility company does not intend to build its own self-driving cars, but rather, it will use Auro's platform to expand its shuttle business.

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Before Auro, Ridecell planned to use its self-driving vehicle software in conjunction with OEM vehicles; it ran two pilot programs before the Auro acquisition.

Additionally, the mobility company will offer its fleet-management software for companies operating autonomous shuttles and self-driving cars.

The service includes the ability to send the self-driving vehicles back to the garage for various maintenance functions or deploy support vehicles should a problem arise—robot cars taking care of robot cars.

BMW ReachNow

BMW ReachNow

Enlarge Photo

“We will help them automate their routine and emergency maintenance, to keep the cars on the road, cleaned and maintained,” Thomas said.

Although the autonomous shuttle business is a new realm for Ridecell, it possesses plenty of knowledge on related industries: ride- and car-sharing.

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The company's car sharing clients notably include BMW's ReachNow, which operates in Seattle, Oregon, and Brooklyn, and Volkswagen's Omni service situated in Poland.

ReachNow includes a fleet of BMW i3 electric cars among other BMW and Mini vehicles.

Auro's 10 employees will join Ridecell's 100-strong workforce in an effort to expand the business model.

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