EV specialist beats Tesla in revealing robotaxi

Posted on June 27, 2024Comments Off on EV specialist beats Tesla in revealing robotaxi

Electric vehicle (EV) giant Tesla has been beaten to the reveal of an autonomous robotaxi by a small Croatian firm – albeit one with significant experience in building battery-powered cars.

While all eyes have been on Tesla ahead of its robotaxi unveiling on August 8, Rimac – the makers of the Nevera electric hypercar – announced the launch of Verne, its autonomous vehicle off-shoot.

Its yet-to-be named autonomous pod is planned to be its first vehicle in production, initially rolling out on the streets of Croatia’s capital Zagreb from 2026.

The company says it has “already signed agreements with 11 cities in Europe, [the] UK and the Middle East, and is negotiating with more than 30 cities worldwide, who want to become Verne partners.”

Verne, whose name pays homage to famed French science-fiction novelist Jules Verne, says the robotaxi uses Intel-owned firm Mobileye’s Drive autonomous technology platform, allowing Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities – one level short of full autonomy.

This is due to the presence of a switch – dubbed the Median – inside the cabin which is used to start and stop the ride, allowing occupants to have a small amount of control over the pod.

There’s no shortage of cameras and sensors on the pod’s exterior, which is devoid of traditional mirrors and windscreen wipers to allow for a more aerodynamic shape, increasing its driving range.

Inside, it’s a two-seat affair, with a step-through front end to make it easier for passengers who may have hopped in through one door to shuffle over to the other side.

As some limited-mobility members of the online community have noted though, there doesn’t appear to be space for wheelchairs.

Verne claims its research showed almost 90 per cent of rides required are for up to two people, negating the need for a Toyota HiAce-style van.

The company also boldly claims its pod has more space than a Rolls-Royce, even with a high 43-inch wide display screen sitting in front of its occupants.

Robotaxi users can make use of the booking app to even set their preferred temperature inside the pod, allowing it to be preconditioned for them before it arrives.

Unlike existing rideshare applications which can sometimes result in cancellations, Verne says its users can rest assured this won’t happen to them.

At this stage it’s unlikely that we’ll see Verne’s robotaxi on local roads, as Australia has yet to approve anything higher than Level 2 autonomous driving systems – which include adaptive cruise control and lane-change assistance – for local roads.