From delivery robots to new EV charging technology, Estonia is fast becoming a hotbed of new mobility companies. One of them is Auve Tech, a start-up that has just unveiled a self-driving hydrogen-powered shuttle, amongst other projects.
Auto Futures has been talking to Auve Tech’s CEO, Johannes Mossov.
The company started out when a small team of specialists started working together on a student project.
“The cooperation project with the Tallinn University of Technology started in 2018, where the project was carried out to celebrate the 100th birthday of the university by producing the first prototype of a self-driving vehicle. After that, Auve Tech was founded to continue as a start-up, offering a full-scope service that enables the autonomous vehicles, and their integration into various environments and fleet management,” explains Mossov.
Auve’s prototype was created in 2018 and tested in various environments in different conditions. At the beginning of summer 2020, Auve Tech started testing its ISeauto shuttle on public streets in Estonia. The pilot route connected Ülemiste City – a privately-owned business campus – with Tallinn International Airport and a local shopping centre.
“The self-driving shuttles are made in order to ease the last mile transit and delivery problems, offering alternative means of transport in closed areas and mixed traffic environments. Auve Tech’s shuttles can fit up to 8 passengers and are capable of driving up to 25 km/h. With one charge they are able to operate for 8 hours. Given their design, they fit perfectly to narrow roads, reaching the areas not covered with public transport infrastructure.”
“The shuttles have proven their concept and their ability to handle real-life challenges in many different districts in various countries. Tested in harsh weather and road conditions the shuttles remain the most flexible option in the market,” he adds.
Auve’s first project outside of Estonia was in Finland alongside local mobility operator, Roboride.
“The project in Tampere together with Roboride was Auve Tech’s first experience with working together with an external operating company. This gave us a lot of insight in where we need to develop the service and product and definitely a great experience. The project has grown to a further cooperation with the Roboride team and raised a lot of interest towards the possibilities of autonomous mobility in Finland and elsewhere.”
Its shuttle have now been been tested in three different countries, and over 2,000 passengers have been introduced to the mobility solution.
“Regardless of the fact that two of these projects were carried out during the time of the worldwide pandemic, we had the opportunity to serve many passengers and the feedback has been amazing,” he says.
“The user acceptance and passenger satisfaction surveys have showed that passengers have been most satisfied with the overall experience with our shuttles, receiving the highest score in traffic and personal safety in comparison with 4 other big pilots along different service providers in different cities,” adds Mossov.
Charging in Just 11 Seconds
There are still many roadblocks ahead for fully autonomous transit. Mossov says the biggest challenges lay in the current legislation and regulations that cannot keep up with the new solutions and technology.
“For example, the teleoperation of a fleet of vehicles is currently still not allowed without a safety operator on board in most countries. This keeps the solution from being truly cost-effective, since a whole fleet of vehicles could be overlooked by a safety operator from a distant control room instead of having individual drivers for each vehicle as we currently have today with the on-demand ride-hailing solutions.”
Auve Tech is working with fellow Estonians Skeleton Technologies to overcome the issues of slow-charging.
“Using supercapacitors from Skeleton Technologies, we have made a prototype solution for a car, allowing our vehicle to be driven 24/7. Supercapacitors give us an advantage of extra fast-charging, allowing us to charge our shuttles in just 11 seconds, therefore making it possible to have our shuttles charged on the go at bus stops. This will result in increasing cost of service and eliminates the need to use additional vehicles.”
Supercapacitors are an energy storage technology that offers high power density, almost instant charging and discharging, and very long lifetimes.
“We believe that by 2030 the new commuting solutions would be implemented on a larger scale.”
Auve Tech and the University of Tartu have just unveiled a hydrogen-powered self-driving shuttle. The hydrogen fuel system will be integrated into its next generation driverless vehicles.
The first passenger on the hydrogen vehicle was the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid.
At the unveiling, Kaljulaid said: “Over 30 years, Estonians have done a lot of things that others have said they would, but do not dare to do. In this sense, Auve Tech’s hydrogen car fits perfectly into the worldview of Estonians.”
“The hydrogen used in the hydrogen cell makes it possible to produce the electricity needed to run the vehicle inside the vehicle, and the only by-products are vaporised water and heat. Its fast charging compared to electric cars allows more working hours for the vehicle, increasing the efficiency and introducing a way to integrate autonomous transportation to our everyday lives,” said Mossov at the unveiling.
“Hydrogen is without doubt the fuel of the future, producing the electricity with the only significant emission being vaporised water,” he notes.
Looking further ahead, Mossov predicts that driverless commuting will be mainstream by the end of the decade.
“The world is definitely moving towards a carbon-free future, but we believe full autonomy in personal cars and a fully carbon-free transport sector is still a topic from the coming decades. Therefore we are aiming towards offering autonomous mobility solutions for the transportation networks to be used already today that would help decrease the dependency of personal vehicles and the expensive land under parking facilities in the urban environments,” he says.
“These changes can already be witnessed today and we believe that by 2030 the new commuting solutions would be implemented on a larger scale. This means more room in the urban space for light transportation modes, pedestrians and parks, but also more sustainable transportation networks connecting suburbs to the city centres,” concludes Mossov.