With social distancing becoming the new normal, the demand and uptake for autonomous technology is on the rise, as is the interest in companies like China’s PIX Moving.
Speaking to Auto Futures, PIX Moving’s founder, Angelo Yu, says: “I myself am an architect. There are more buildings, roads, architectural structures than ever before, which in turn leads to urban-centric issues such as congestion, unaffordable housing, dweller isolation etc. A hundred years ago, Henry Ford reshaped what cities looked like back then with cars. Today, PIX Moving is doing just that by rebuilding cities today with autonomous mobility.”
While other autonomous driving start-ups are focusing on transporting people, Yu says PIX Moving aims to bring autonomous-mobility-powered services to the people.
“The dynamic interaction between human and space is the essence of the urban city. We empower city spaces with autonomous mobility so that spaces will be mobile, configurable and on-demand. Taco trucks, coffee machines and photo booths will all become autonomously routed and freely moving parts of cities.
“By integrating living, working and entertainment spaces on PIX autonomous chassis platforms, we’re creating a new lifestyle and leading to a sustainable city. You can work out on the way back home to a mobile gym. You can pick up your fresh cooking ingredients for dinner at the door from the autonomous delivery grocery vehicle,” Yu adds.
PIXBOTS and Pix City Solutions
While PIX Moving’s solution is an innovative one, its roots are based in the Metabolism movement which originated in Japan, as well as the Archigram movement, which originate in the UK – two urban architectural theories that date back to the post-World War 2 era.
Yu elaborates on what PIX Moving’s solution is all about by saying: “PIX builds autonomous driving chassis PIXBOT to integrate living, working and entertaining spaces atop, forming different moving spaces to provide on-demand services, such as unattended vending car, mobile office, self-driving hotel, moving karaoke and more applications. PIX Moving space’s modular design enables the automatic detachment between chassis and pod so that different spaces can be built with ease.
“PIX Moving develops products from a city perspective. Modern cities are facing plenty of challenges from congestion, over-centralization and uneven resource allocation to unaffordable housing, most of which originate from the uneven distribution of space resources. With autonomous mobility, PIX Moving makes space mobile, shareable and configurable, creating a sustainable city by better utilising space resources.”
To think that this space would be devoid of competition is far from the truth. Both, in China as well as internationally, PIX Moving is competing with the likes of Toyota E-palette, Nuro, Olli and Neolix. But, for Yu, its offerings are quite different from its competitors.
“PIX products are defined and developed from the perspective of city, transportation and fleets operation. We have a clear technical roadmap and market approach to achieve PIX vision: PIX City, a new city themed around autonomous driving, where architecture, real estate and spaces are equipped with autonomous mobility to move, connect and stack. Currently PIXBOT and moving spaces have received positive feedback, and we’d be working together with the customers and partners to achieve PIX City vision,” he says.
“Covid-19 led us to think through how we can utilise the emerging technologies to better benefit humankind.”
When it comes to autonomous technology, people tend to look at it as a part of a utopian or dystopian future. I was curious to know if PIX Moving had some near-future use cases to offer.
Yu told me: “The future is here. It’s not far-fetched I believe. Currently we’re developing an autonomous driving retailing & delivery space for an intelligent retailing company in the U.S. They hope to integrate their smart vending machine onto PIX autonomous platform to provide mobile retailing and autonomous delivery in the residential communities.”
Autonomous mobility faces its fair share of scepticism, and Yu agrees that there are quite a few mental roadblocks that PIX Moving has had to face over time.
“Yes, there are a lot, actually. They think autonomous driving is too far away. PIX City is a fantasy. We’re just a start-up without the capability to rebuild cities as we know them.
“In addition to the devotion to rebuild the city with autonomous mobility (PIX moving spaces), the manufacturing approach we’re experimenting is disrupting the whole automotive industry, from design to manufacturing. Being a start-up enables us to think outside the box instead of following the rules, which means that we can move a whole lot faster. Irrespective of whether we end up being a pioneer or a martyr, we’re happy to experience the journey.”
Yu adds that there are other challenges that need to be taken care of: “Safety. It takes time to ensure that autonomous driving is 100% safe and secure. And then there is people’s fear for new disruptive technology. It will take many years for the general public to accept new things.”
Yu confirms what other companies in this space have been witnessing – a sharp spike in demand for autonomous technology ever since Covid-19 struck.
“The demand for autonomous driving technology is increasing. Recently, we were invited to launch autonomous driving applications around the globe, especially in the US and Europe. Ever since the outbreak of Covid-19, we’ve been thinking about how to leverage robotics, autonomous driving and automation technologies to address this global threat.
“Based on PIXBOT autonomous driving, we’re nurturing several projects to fight against the virus situation: autonomous delivery for personal protection equipment, UV light virus killing vehicle, mobile quarantine room and disinfection robot car, etc. Covid-19 led us to think through how we can utilise the emerging technologies to better benefit humankind, without putting individuals at risk of any level.
Meanwhile, the company is also exploring digital manufacturing to reduce the reliance on supply chains.
“The Covid-19 outbreak has had a strong impact on the manufacturing industry and supply chains. Besides, PIX is located in a less industrial place. With generative design and 3D printing, the dependency on supply chains is significantly reduced and we’re able to build the robot spaces successfully even during these challenging times,” notes Yu.
PIX Moving’s road-map for the future is well laid out. The following are some of the things that the company is looking to accomplish in the times to come:-
● Launch anti-virus applications to help and support those in need
● Build more moving spaces applications in partnership with diverse industries such as logistics, retailing, security, etc impacting and benefiting people’s life
● Launch PIX City demo to prove the concept
● Autonomous driving applications in daily life on a large scale, eventually reshaping the existing city paradigm
Yu says that it’s currently extremely difficult to achieve autonomous driving on a large scale in the existing cities.
“In China, the scale of most real estate projects is like building a new ‘city’. For such projects, taking autonomous driving into consideration from the initial design and planning stage will deeply integrate the self-driving element. Autonomous driving technology can be applied in large sale in such new ‘city’ projects by launching various application fleets such as self-driving shuttle vehicles, autonomous cleaning car, automatic logistic cargo and multi-functional moving space, etc.”
Yu concludes: “Around the globe, especially in the U.S. and Europe, most residential communities are in the suburbs and the layout extends out like a grid, which may demand more mobility and ground services due to a relatively lack of proper amenities, basic facilities and certain infrastructure. In those areas, moving spaces can bring great value and convenience to households, improving the living quality, such as mobile hospital, autonomous driving stores, on-demand medical care and so on.”