Amber Mobility is a small Dutch carsharing company with a huge vision. Following the reveal of its Amber One car design in 2017, the company has been busy rolling out an EV sharing platform among different corporate clients. Despite still being in its infancy, Amber is already looking to roll out autonomous features within its first beta pool.
I first spoke to Amber during its official launch and was impressed by CEO Steven Nelemans and his team’s vision of producing a compact and affordable EV for a shared mobility service that, as he said, would be the only way to persuade people to leave their petrol and diesel cars.
Since then, the Eindhoven-based startup has shifted its focus onto commercial implementation of its electric carsharing platform across the Netherlands and is preparing to introduce artificial intelligence.
“We are present and supplying mobility in the largest 12 cities in the Netherlands, to corporate companies and their employees,” says Nelemans. “Since we last spoke, we have moved into a bigger office and expanded the team in the pursuit of becoming the biggest carsharing provider in the country, which is just the start for us.”
Back in October, Amber was one of the fastest growing companies in the Netherlands (Deloitte Fast 50 awards), reflecting great growth that stemmed from efforts over the last year or so. Now, Nelemans is pushing to become a market leader in the country, before expanding across Europe – and possibly beyond.
Kingdom Of The Low (Emission) Countries
The Netherlands, much like Norway and Sweden, has been busy pushing the era of clean, sustainable mobility and making other European countries, such as the UK, raise their game. The Dutch government is creating the appropriate framework conditions, allowing Amber to develop and rollout quicker. Nelemans believes that this puts Amber at an advantage, allowing the company to work towards a strong global presence in the future transportation sector.
“The government and companies present in the Netherlands are working towards a sustainable mobility policy, making sure that there are a lot more electric and hybrid vehicles,” he continues. “Due to this, we have seen a big increase in electrified vehicles on the roads here.”
“Everybody in the Netherlands is focusing on sustainable mobility, which is what helps us in our marketing and sales efforts because, everywhere we go, we have people who want to listen to our story and want to use the Amber system for themselves.”
What’s more, Amber is not only using fully-electric cars but is optimising them within a sharing service, which will lead to fewer cars on the road and, thus, much lower CO2 emissions. It’s great to see countries like the Netherlands and companies like Amber support clean, efficient transport through innovation.
Although many mobility services are relatively new, leading players are already looking towards future solutions; most notably, artificial intelligence. Amber has been working on self-driving and AI software in order to further improve its services further down the line.
In terms of AI, Amber will use a system that will identify available vehicles for consumers in cities, improving the overall customer experience through its operational model.
“The beauty of AI is that it is a really broad technology that can be used for a lot of different things,” adds Nelemans. “Our AI is already operational in a predicted analysis algorithm. We can use AI to predict what the demands will be in the future and can implement carsharing in the right spots to guarantee the availability of shared EVs and increase the service level that we have.”
Nelemans says that Amber is still working on its self-driving cars, despite being focused on the commercial expansion of the company. In fact, the company recently announced the completion of a successful platooning trial in Eindhoven.
Amber, which offers “guaranteed mobility” for customers, will use platooning when moving vehicles regularly between hubs. This would only require one fleet operator per group of vehicles, moving several cars at the same time with less effort.
“I can say that the platooning pilot was successful,” said Amber CEO Steven Nelemans. “We have tested platooning because we think this can help us keep our business model scalable. If we move Amber vehicles through bus lanes at night, we can roll out our business model faster.”
According to Amber, the technology is expected to be ready by the end of the year.
Bringing Autonomous Software To The Forefront
Autonomous software is now in reach for automakers and mobility companies, as each continues to speed up the development of self-driving technology. However, says Nelemans, it is also important to understand the importance of the social aspects of the software.
“These include insurance, government legislation and making sure that these self-driving cars can perform on roads,” Nelemans continues. “The implementation of this software on public roads is mainly dependant on being faultless. If you take a look at the US, there are around 40,000 road casualties, without the introduction of the self-driving car. However, even if they reduce this figure by 5,000, autonomous vehicles will still not be allowed on the road, as it is immoral and unethical.”
This is a very interesting discussion because it will take a long time before self-driving technology achieves the ‘0%’ target. What makes matters worse, is that new technology companies are flooding the automotive market with little-to-no knowledge of the industry, meaning that they may be putting consumers at risks with products that aren’t safe enough.
“The inexperience that many of these new technology companies have with the transport industry means there could be a huge problem,” warns Nelemans. “We have already seen tragic accidents with vehicles from major mobility companies that, for some reason, have been forgotten. If this was to happen to a traditional European OEM, the impact on their brand reputation would be a lot bigger.”
Nelemans ensures me that Amber will not let any of its technology on public roads without being 100% sure of its safety. The company is working a lot with large OEMs, such as BMW, which means that it must maintain a reputation for thorough testing and reliability.
Mobility Beyond The Car
The focus of Amber is to be a commercial brand, not following the popular path of becoming a technology company that sells self-driving technology. It will continue to work on self-driving vehicles to strengthen its market share and even explore different modes of transport.
“We will implement e-bikes and public transport into our platform to increase the offering of our service,” says Nelemans. “An EV is not always the ideal way of transport for every single trip. For example, if you want to go to the centre of Amsterdam, it is much easier to take an e-bike or use public transport than getting stuck in a traffic jam.”
By adding more modalities to its platform, Amber can optimise its service and create a better proposition for its customers. The next step from here is to reach other European countries, before taking on regions outside of the continent.
“We strongly believe that with the proposition we have now and the rate that we are growing, we will achieve this goal,” Nelemans predicts.