Fleets for the future.

We could soon have vehicle fleets at our disposal that take us safely and sustainably from A to B. How so-called “fleetification” will affect our cities is being jointly examined by the BMW Group and experts from the University of California.

Simply open an app on the Smartphone and we are picked up by a self-driving vehicle and taken to work or to the shopping centre, or perhaps to our favourite sports facility. An algorithm is familiar with our most probable destination, keeps the vehicle on standby and along the way picks up a further two persons whose destination is on the same route.

The mobile future of our cities will most likely be decisively characterised by fleets of self-driving electric vehicles. These are familiar with the traffic situation and the current mobility needs and automatically adapt to each situation. And they are almost constantly on the move, bringing people to their desired destination. This is not only practical, but also reduces the number of parking spaces needed.

But “fleetification” is still in its infancy. Decisive impulses could, however, now come from the BMW Group. “With offers such as our car sharing service DriveNow, the car-sharing and ride-hailing service ReachNow and EV Fleet Management from AlphaCity, we now already have fleet experience in 16 major cities with more than a million customers. Moreover, the BMW Group and Daimler AG are planning the next steps for a joint mobility venture. The responsible regulatory authorities have already approved this cooperation,” emphasises Simon Euringer, Vice President of the Technology Office, a BMW Group innovation hotbed in Mountain View

The Technology Office has now teamed up with experts from the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of California located in Davis in order to establish a research project to collectively closely examine and test the future of fleet services. “The institute is an excellent partner for us,” Euringer emphasises. As one of the world’s leading centres for sustainable mobility, it is well suited for performing in-depth research on fleet mobility. Together with the BMW Group, mobility researchers are now able to gain practical experience as well.

BMW is providing, inter alia, ten used BMW i3s for this specific purpose. Fleet providers would like to learn if pre-owned vehicles can offer a better value proposition than new vehicles.

The ten BMW i3s will be given to the university employees to be used for work travel. The data obtained from the subsequent survey can then be used to answer initial questions: How well are the services received? Who uses them, why and how often, and how can the individual offers be best coordinated when they are eventually developed into a comprehensive fleet service? It should also be most exciting to see how strongly the offer increases interest in electric vehicles amongst the university employees.

In addition to user behaviour, experts attach major importance to the needs of fleet providers, as these have to manage, maintain and attune their vehicles to the current traffic situation as efficiently and sustainably as possible. Therefore, within the framework of a collaborative effort with the Los Angeles Police Department, the BMW Group is currently developing and testing “Fleet View”. With this software (and the compatible hardware in the vehicle), it is possible, among other options, to receive information on the location and charge level of the vehicle. Moreover, it should then be possible to align recharging as best possible to the predicted mobility needs of a neighbourhood’s residents and to the charging load on the grid. The more electric vehicles are in use on the road, the more important it is to manage the overall power consumption of an electric fleet in such a way as to ensure a balance between the consumption of bulk consumers on the one hand and energy production – for instance through solar power – on the other.   

When sufficient experience has been gained through projects at the University of California and in collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Department, and the necessary technology can also be reliably applied on a large scale, various different automobile fleets might be able to start operating as early as during the forthcoming decade. How about company offers for employees who have to commute, for example? Or theme park shuttle busses? A fleet operated by a restaurant chain for fast delivery of food could also become reality.