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Calling it a “Global Laboratory of Future Mobility,” CoMotion LA brought together leaders from the urban mobility revolution November 14-15 in the City of Angels. The event featured a lively expert panel on the topic, “Let’s Get Real: Lessons Learned from Real World AV and Human-Driven Deployments” sponsored by Bestmile.


While some have claimed that connected and autonomous vehicles and services are farther off than predicted 2017-2018, this session focused on new deployments happening now. Examples included Beep’s autonomous shuttle services in Florida, and Alto’s new brand of ridehailing service in Dallas, both optimized by the Bestmile Fleet Orchestration platform.


Moderator Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics, brought his experience advising global mobility businesses and set the stage for the conversation, noting that we would not be discussing theoretical solutions but focusing on actual deployments, the current status of cities and OEM plans.


Getting Real and Lessons Learned


Bestmile CEO Raphael Gindrat started the conversation with a history lesson, noting what Bestmile has learned since introducing the first autonomous vehicle projects in Europe—the vehicles were programmed to navigate a fixed route but could not communicate or function as a fleet. He explained how that led to the development of Besmile’s vehicle agnostic fleet orchestration platform that enables autonomous and human-driven vehicles of any brand or type to work together as fleets.


Tony Pino , Bestmile VP of Sales for North America, shared how new mobility providers must differentiate to compete instead of offering “me-too” services. He showed how Alto has leaned on fleet orchestration to offer a safer, more predictable service with professional drivers and a custom fleet, setting and meeting utilization targets.


Jennifer Foote, VP of Customer Success at Beep, defined what customer success looks like for both cities and travelers, and how Beep is tackling the challenges in Lake Nona, Florida and beyond. Beep is pioneering autonomous shuttle services in private communities and campuses, and Jennifer discussed what it is taken to get Beep up and running, including forging the municipal and technical partnerships needed.


Seattle’s Chief of Strategy and Innovation for its department of transportation Benjamin de la Peña talked about starting with the question, “What kind of city do we want to be?” when making transportation plans. The risk, he said, is that if we start with technical requirements, we’ll again find cities designed around vehicles instead of around people. He was especially concerned about redesigning cities to provide equitable access to information and services.


Former President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Hinrich Woebcken provided the automakers’ perspective. He pointed out that the auto industry is likely to change more in the next 10 years than it did in the previous 100 years as it approaches an autonomous and electric future. He also questioned whether OEMs “get it” when it comes to leveraging technology and to offer new services, and whether they can move as quickly as startups that are nimbler and have little legacy baggage.


Beyond Talking Points


Moderator Roger Lanctot pressed for answers to questions to make good on the “Let’s Get Real” theme; he pushed presenters beyond talking points. Can multiple forms of autonomous services—public transport, delivery, trucking, tourist services—coexist and work together to improve urban quality of life? Can the public and private sectors collaborate to deliver services that are clean, equitable, safe, and that provide a level playing field for all participants? Will people really, especially in the United States, ever give up the private car?


Next came questions from the audience—so many that most attendees stayed beyond the session’s allotted time. It’s clear that there is a great deal of interest in learning from people with hands-on experience tacking mobility services challenges. The main takeaway was that the opportunities to reinvent mobility and reimagine cities is great, and it’s an exciting time to be in this industry.


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