The midst of a global pandemic is not exactly an ideal time to assume the role of CEO, but Christian Bering was one of the first employees at Denmark’s Holo, a leading provider of autonomous mobility in Europe, so he knew his way around the company.
Holo was founded in 2016 as a new innovative part of the Semler Group, the largest automotive company in Denmark. Semler had previously invested in Local Motors, the U.S. start-up best know for Oli, its self-driving shuttle. Bering took over as CEO in the summer of 2020.
“At that time we were called Autonomous Mobility. In the summer of 2019, we decided to change our name to Holo, which reflects that the company works towards more than just a future with autonomous transportation. Our goal is to move mobility forward, and we want to work towards a more sustainable future with easier ways of moving people and goods around,” Bering tells Auto Futures.
“During these last four years, our dedicated employees have made Holo the leading operator of autonomous technology in Europe. We have done this by implementing pilot projects with autonomous shuttles in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Estonia.”
Besides deploying autonomous vehicles on the streets, it has developed the Holo Platform which consists of a number of different features, including a cross-platform app for end-users, a real-time portal for monitoring of data from vehicles, and data analysis tools to optimise autonomous operations.
Alongside a number of partners, Holo has been testing its services in different locations in Scandinavia, including the Norwegian capital.
“The project in Oslo was a project divided into three phases, taking place in three different areas of Oslo. The project was a collaboration between Oslo Municipality, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, Ruter, and Holo, and ran with autonomous shuttles driving from May 2019 until the end of 2020.”
“The goal of this project was to introduce autonomous technology to the end-user, and at the same time learn about customer needs. We also wanted to contribute to the push for implementing new and innovative mobility services,” explains Bering.
A new pilot, in the Norwegian town of Ski, involves testing a control tower that acts as a remote human assistance and monitoring unit for a fleet of vehicles.
“Our supervisors can track the operations and assist with troubleshooting from a distance. This means that, by communicating with the operator in the vehicle, they can work together to find the issue that might occur during daily operations,” says Bering.
Testing AVs in Harsh Weather Conditions
One of the challenges for AVs is how to function during extreme weather conditions such as heavy snow or rain which can disturb the functionality of LiDARs.
“They detect the rain/snow as unknown objects which causes the shuttles to stop. It is important to underline that this is mostly an issue on days with heavy rain and not the regular rainy days, which we also have quite a few of here in Scandinavia.”
“The effect of weather conditions on autonomous vehicles is also part of our new project in Ski. There we are testing a new generation of autonomous vehicles that are better suited for the conditions in Scandinavia,” adds Bering.
Like many AV operators, the Covid-19 pandemic created some changes and challenges for Holo.
“Due to the restrictions and recommendations from health authorities, we haven’t been able to have as many passengers as we would like. But on the more positive side, this period of time has also shown us, and the world, the need for better mobility solutions, which works to our advantage.”
“This is especially true regarding drones in the healthcare sector, but as well for a future where a vehicle might drive without a driver, who is exposed, as they have been for the last several months,” he says.
Since 2019, Holo has also been working towards implementing drones into the healthcare sector with its HealthDrone project.
changing mobility is not something that happens overnight. But changes in urban mobility are needed.
Despite being a long-term employee of Holo, Bering has only been CEO for a short time. He outlined his plans for the company, which include delivering the next generation of vehicles and self-driving technology.
“Hopefully, I will build more partnerships with different vendors who can find Holo’s experience and know-how useful. I feel comfortable that my prior experience within technology, and me being a part of Holo as one of the first, can help me shape the future of Holo and an autonomous future.”
Finally, we asked Bering for this thoughts on what mobility will look like by the end of the decade. He said it’s extremely hard to predict.
“If I have learned anything from working at Holo the last three years, it is that changing mobility is not something that happens overnight. But changes in urban mobility are needed. Most urban areas in Europe are struggling with the same issues regarding congestion, the lack of space, and pollution. Therefore we will see new technology paving the way for changes. And I expect autonomous vehicles to be an important part of the change that is needed.”
“In 2030 we will most likely see cities that in specific areas only allow autonomous vehicles, public transportation, or shared solutions, all using sustainable energy. I also expect that drones will be a part of urban mobility. Freight first but soon after people transportation as well. And hopefully, Holo can be a key player in urban mobility solutions needed in 2030,” he concludes.
Find out more about Holo at https://www.letsholo.com/platform