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Modular Self-driving Tech to Disrupt Public Transportation

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【Summary】During the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Conference in California’s Silicon Valley, Next Future Transportation and Globetouch Inc. announced a timely partnership that aims to deliver new solutions to outdated, large-scale systems.

Michael Cheng    May 22, 2017 7:50 AM PT
Modular Self-driving Tech to Disrupt Public Transportation

Public transportation systems worldwide are in need of serious upgrades to be able to match the same level of seamlessness that today's smart cars are able to offer. Of course, this is easier said than done. Trains and buses are difficult to upgrade due to infrastructure issues, making them usually the last to receive new features.

Two companies recently formed a partnership to ensure public transportation doesn't get left behind in the disruption of the industry. During the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Conference in California's Silicon Valley, Next Future Transportation and Globetouch Inc. announced a timely partnership that aims to deliver new solutions to outdated, large-scale systems.

"Modernizing the world's ailing ground transportation system is both one of the most significant challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century," said Emmanuele Spera, CEO of NEXT. "NEXT and Globetouch Inc. will identify strategic projects that will accelerate integration around multimodal transportation solutions and ultimately help cities alleviate congestion."

Modular and Self-driving

Next Future Transportation has been quietly working on an extremely ambitious project that involves modular, self-driving pods. The units are designed to replace buses and shuttles. During operation, the pods will hold up to six passengers and will usher them to their destination, while connecting to other pods using modular technology. Two or three pods can connect to each other while moving and individuals will be able to transfer to the attached cabin to reroute to a different drop off point. The cabins could also offer food services, where passengers could grab a snack while waiting to arrive at their destination.

In the collaboration, Globetouch will focus on developing connectivity services for the units. It will power a wide range of services that can be applied to the modular vessels, such as delivery services, battery back-up and wireless payments.

Non-stop Service

The mass transportation service will be autonomous, electric and modular, which will allow the service to operate 24/7. Should a pod run out of power, a battery swap can be performed via a modular battery service that attaches to the vessel in real-time. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of the square-like bus is its ability to carry out deliveries without human workers. A company could load up a pod and send it to a customer autonomously.

Should automakers and ride-sharing companies be worried about Next Future Transportation's project? Not yet.

The technology is far from mature. Even if the startup can develop such a system, it still needs to undergo countless hours of testing in live environments. Moreover, the pods will initially be attractive to cities with deep budgets and reliable connectivity infrastructure. Regulations also have to be formed to oversee safety standards and deployment. So far, the Italy-based company is working on finalizing designs for the vessels.

"As we enter a new era of information centric transportation, connectivity is right at the center of key opportunities. Our unique global virtual ecosystem of network operators will support the NEXT's autonomous fleets and associated IoT infrastructure around the globe," said John Jiang, President of Globetouch Inc.

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