Self-driving cars in the Holy Land may hit the roads as early as 2019, as three major players announced plans to develop Israel’s first ride-hailing service using Level 4 autonomous vehicles.
The proposal from Volkswagen Group, Intel subsidiary Mobileye and Champion Motors was accepted during the recent Smart Mobility Summit in Tel Aviv.
The New Mobility in Israel joint venture calls for Volkswagen to provide the electric cars, Mobileye to bring the self-driving smarts and Champion Motors (which represents Volkswagen in Israel) to run the fleet operations and control center.
The “Mobility-as-a-Service” (MaaS) initiative takes advantage of Israel’s relatively small geographic size and closed borders to make it a global test site.
Electric car startup Better Place had the same idea but went bankrupt in 2013 before its country-wide beta could demonstrate the viability of its battery swap business model.
Unlike Better Place, however, the new self-driving ride-hailing service has a commitment from the Israeli government for legal and regulatory support, the sharing of required infrastructure and traffic data, and access to infrastructure. These could be applied to other ventures that wish to operate a MaaS in Israel, the group says.
The project will start with tests in early 2019 with full commercialization by 2022. New Mobility in Israel will launch with several dozen cars and plans to grow to hundreds in the coming years.
The Israeli pilot will use Level 4 autonomous cars, where a car drives itself but only in a specific area that has been fully mapped out. Level 4 vehicles require a driver to be present but not to drive except in emergencies.
“We firmly believe that self-driving electric vehicles will offer Israel and cities around the world safe, clean and emission-free mobility, which is accessible and convenient,” said Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Group.
[Photo: moteurnature / YouTube ]