Holo was established in 2016 to create the mobility service of the future, through advanced autonomous software to directly address the main challenges many European cities face today: congestion, pollution and safety.
Today, the Copenhagen-based company is using its vehicles to move people all over Europe through multiple pilot projects.
As Holo CEO Peter Sorgenfrei says, it is about utilising self-driving technology to meet riders’ need for freedom of movement, while making the most of collective movement.
“We introduce solutions that reduce congestion, limit pollution, and lower the number of traffic deaths at the same time,” he tells me.
New Name, New Aim
Holo was formally known as Autonomous Mobility A/S, but Sorgenfrei and his team believed that their solution extended far beyond the self-driving car, changing the name to better represent itself. So, in the summer of 2019, Holo was born.
“Autonomous mobility is still what we work with and where we see the future of mobility. But our solutions go beyond that of pure tech-hype and transportation, and our name should reflect that,” he explains. “We want to move people physically, but also emotionally, by taking the hassle out of transportation and making mobility emotionally liberating. The rebranding into Holo has brought us closer to our users.”
The brand is represented by a little orange bird, which represents an individual’s need for personal freedom and autonomy. It is small, agile and also part of a larger flock, which in itself represents a collective movement.
In short, this moto – if you will – describes Holo’s focus on the seamless movement of people in cities across the continent.
From Viking to EcoWarrior
Denmark, alongside its Nordic and Baltic neighbours, is one of the world’s most climate-driven societies, which has helped it and the rest of the region develop into future mobility pioneers.
“I think that the demand for climate-friendly means of transportation and more livable cities in the Nordics and Baltics are important push factors,” says Sorgenfrei. “In EU projects such as AVENUE, we work hard to promote the solutions in four different countries. We are currently piloting in mixed traffic in different environments across regions – and these certainly show what the vehicles are capable of.”
However, he tells me that his “biggest wish to Santa Claus this year” is a “geofenced area where we can test out full autonomy in an area where no manually driven cars are allowed, and we can demonstrate the mobility benefits at full scale.”
We will have to wait and see if Santa is feeling generous in this festive period, although Christmas has come early for Holo. It recently became the first company with permission to operate autonomous vehicles in Denmark.
On the day, Sorgenfrei said that it was “a giant milestone” and allowed Holo “to get an opportunity to show the benefits of autonomous solutions – in our home market.”
Despite the good news, Sorgenfrei still believes that it is too challenging to roll out autonomous vehicles on public roads effectively.
“Denmark has one of the most liberal regulations regarding autonomous projects,” he says. “The only problem is that it is incredibly difficult to actually obtain permission due to the bureaucratic process.”
Something that will help Holo is its relationship with authorities, which has been critical in the run-up to the latest project. Other companies and regions have not had the same experience, struggling with regulations and the overall rollout of autonomous technology.
“Our relationship with authorities is absolutely central. In our neighbouring countries, we have experienced much easier cooperation with authorities about permissions and a willingness to obtain first-mover insights from the authorities themselves,” he adds.
One big problem for cities and their authorities is how they will fit these autonomous systems into the existing network, as they do not want to create any problems for city dwellers. Holo has overcome this issue as it aims to fit into the existing transport ecosystem.
“What we want at this phase is to integrate our solutions into the existing public transportation network, providing first- and last-mile mobility and more flexibility to passengers. That’s also why we cooperate with larger PTAs like Ruter in Norway.”
Since establishing pilot project operations on various locations is quite demanding in terms of garage location, staff, and permissions, Sorgenfrei’s first goal is to expand and extend Holo’s existing pilot projects. But, ultimately, the goal is to rapidly scale-up and answer the mobility needs that are currently being ignored.
Next up, says Sorgenfrei, is on-demand mobility, not just on the ground but also in the air, which is incredibly exciting.
“Currently, we’re moving into the field of drones for improved healthcare services in the HealthDrone Project,” he adds, hinting at the progressive environment and focus of Holo.