“Moovit and Mobileye plan to start operating autonomous vehicles in Israel by the beginning of 2022 — within a year from today. We are already seeing on-demand transportation services and ridesharing services in the country, and even if, to begin with, there will be a human behind the wheel of the autonomous car, it will be in preparation for the eventual arrival of driverless vehicles — vehicles without a steering wheel and pedals, driven solely by a computer,” Moovit Founder and CEO Nir Erez said in an interview with Sophie Shulman during Calcalist’s online Innovation Conference.
In May 2020, Moovit was acquired by Mobileye in a deal estimated at $1 billion, as part of which Moovit was to integrate the data it collects from its 775 million users in 3,100 cities into Mobileye, which itself was acquired by Intel.
“The grand vision of (Mobileye founder) Prof. Amnon Shashua is of autonomous vehicles that function as robo-taxis, replacing drivers who currently operate Uber or Lyft services all over the world, and that is perhaps the easiest development to achieve, because it requires a single driver per passenger. But an autonomous vehicle can also shift into the direction of shuttles or on-demand transportation, which is essentially taking several people to various destinations through unassigned routes. Eventually we can arrive at autonomous buses too,” Erez said.
“The initial and simpler element is robo-taxis, which take one or two people to a single destination. Next we anticipate robot-shuttles, vehicles that can carry 12-16 passengers along a certain corridor, can stop in places that aren't necessarily stations and allow greater flexibility. We expect to see these arrive in the second half of 2022. The real impact of autonomous vehicles in terms of price is in the smaller vehicles, replacing a taxi driver with a robot cuts much of the cost, compared to a train conductor who transports 500 people,” Erez explained.
“We believe that transportation can be a service. It should be just like the way we consume electricity or cellular services It doesn’t matter whether we used the oven, the television or the water heater, at the end of the month we receive the bill for all that we used. The same should go for transportation,” Erez argued. “When we started Moovit nine years ago we were very focused on providing information about how people move around a city. But at some point we shifted from what you call ‘plan and go’ to ‘plan, pay, and go’ and the final vision is even more far reaching than that. Means of transportation are diversifying and the idea is that people will eventually be able to travel using any means they want and their entire mobility will be paid for as a service, and that’s the grand vision that Moovit has been promoting in recent years — transportation on-demand — and one step at a time, we are beginning to see that vision being realized,” Erez concluded.