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Jim Motavalli - Car Talk

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS—We are on the campus of the technical university in Delft, the Dutch city made famous for its blue-tinged china. But today tech has the edge, and we’re cruising in a WePod self-driving transporter that’s offering a “last mile” solution—from the station to work.


WePod
Suddenly, an inflated T-shirt-wearing skateboarder darts into our path. Bingo, the bus stops. The vehicle is equipped with nine radars and nine cameras and they are working, apparently, because mylar is not spread all over the road. The WePods are already working at another Dutch university, providing automated shuttle service around campus and rides to the train station. And similar French-built pods have now gone into autonomous shuttle service in Taiwan.

The skateboarding dummy
Welcome to the Holland not of wooden shoes and windmills, but of green driving solutions. The Netherlands isn’t a center for carmaking, though the
much-missed DAF (absorbed into Volvo) pioneered the fuel-saving CVT transmission.

Amber
Minis are assembled here, as is the BMW Z1, but there’s no indigenous car, and maybe that’s why the Dutch try harder on leading in the self-driving car space. Like Israel, The Netherlands is a startup nation—my favorite was a car-sharing service in Eindhoven, Amber Mobility, headed by a 22-year-old CEO. It’s already got corporate customers for its electric BMW i3 cars, and guarantees a ride within walking distance. As if that wasn’t enough, the company is trying to launch its own electric car, the Amber One—with 250-mile range.

Brainding carbon
Another startup that could lead to a Dutch electric car is Lightyear One, which also has a just-out-of-college team. The idea here is an all-new lightweight car that will derive much of  its energy from a roof-mounted solar panel. Solar on car roofs isn’t a new concept—the Fisker Karma offered it, for instance, but it didn’t provide much useful power.

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Tags: MobilityVehicle

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