A New Player, HOLON, Enters The Emerging Autonomous People Mover Industry

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When it comes to autonomous vehicles, it’s easy to think of them as today’s manually-driven vehicles but with the ability to drive themselves. And, one couldn’t honestly be called stupid for thinking that, because everything we see now could be described thus. Tesla’s FSD Beta happens in normal cars. Waymo’s vans and crossovers are modified vans and crossovers. Cruise’s little vehicles are modified Chevy Bolt EVs.

But, that doesn’t make a lot of sense in the long run. Today’s vehicles already have a variety of sizes, shapes, and capabilities because people need different tools for different jobs. Car buyers aren’t always rational actors (some people commute in huge pickup trucks that never haul or see dirt), but people generally go for what they think will best suit their needs (even if that need is to, uh, compensate for something).

So, we can expect future autonomous vehicles to start specializing in being autonomous vehicles. We’re already seeing this in the designs, with the upcoming Cruise Origin being a great example. When there’s no driver, expect to see vehicles that prioritize interior room, ease of getting in and out, and people facing each other to have conversations.

A recent press release from Austria-based BENTELER, an established company engaged in the development, production, and distribution of products, systems, and services for the automotive, energy, and mechanical engineering sectors, shows that this trend will continue, and it will bring in some new players who emerge just for this market.

BENTELER is creating a new brand, HOLON, to underline its global business ambitions in autonomous mobility. As a result, the BENTELER EV Systems business unit will change its name at the end of 2021 and focus on fully electric autonomous people movers.

“Mobility around the world is undergoing rapid change. BENTELER is optimally prepared for this — 85% of our products are independent of the type of drive. In parallel with the traditional automotive business, innovative, digitally connected, and autonomous mobility services promise high growth in the coming years.” said Ralf Göttel, BENTELER Group CEO.

“With our engineering and manufacturing expertise, we are predestined to fill a gap in this hitherto strongly software-dominated field. By founding HOLON, an independent legal entity, we can react flexibly to changing customer requirements in this dynamic market. In this way, we will make the best possible use of growth opportunities.”

HOLON, a Greek term meaning “something that is both a whole and part of a whole,” involves itself in many areas in order to satisfy the slogan of “HOLON – Established Tomorrow.” The company works hard to provide the world first autonomous mover that meet automotive standards set for January 2024 at the CES 2023 trade show, Officials say they prioritize safety, driving comfort, and production quality.

“Autonomous movers are an essential part of tomorrow’s mobility – emission-free, comfortable, reliable and, above all, inclusive,” said Marco Kollmeier, Managing Director of HOLON. “HOLON will be the first OEM for autonomous movers with the standards and scaling potential we know from the automotive industry. With our platform technology, our vehicle expertise, and our strong partner network, it’s our goal to redefine passenger transport — in both the public and private sectors.”

HOLON has partnered with various developed companies, including Pininfarina and Beep, to create an autonomous mover. Mobileye is focusing on developing the self-driving system for this project while Beep integrates technologies and services for a mobility service. The well-known car company, Pininfarina, designed the new autonomous mover. Its engineering and manufacturing skills are top of its class globally, which is why HOLON was chosen to be responsible for developing and producing the new movers. They are scheduled to go into production in just a few years in 2025, starting from factories located in the United States.

Kollmeier emphasizes that the new brand’s structure is unprecedented in the competitive landscape of autonomous movers. “To achieve this, HOLON combines the best of two worlds: We combine the speed, passion and entrepreneurial spirit of a start-up with the strength, resources and expertise of an established automotive company.” he said. “This is how we support our customers in implementing safe and environmentally friendly mobility solutions that accelerate their businesses.”

Not only do public transport companies benefit from HOLON, but also municipalities and private establishments such as universities, airports, national parks, etc. Another avenue it is hoping to explore is last-mile delivery — an increasingly popular method of transportation that has been at odds with the goal of reducing traffic and emissions in urban areas. With this in mind, the company is working towards developing special autonomous transport vehicles in the future.

In order to maintain a higher growth potential, BENTELER and HOLON are looking into the option of working with other strategic partners and investors for their new company. The first announcements for pilot applications outside of North America will be in the next few months, with development starting from 2023 onwards.

Details On The HOLON Mover Are Scarce, For Now

Here at CleanTechnica, we tend to like the technical side of things. I’d love to give readers a complete breakdown of HOLON’s people mover and how it works, but they’re playing their cards close to the vest for now. Further details will come out next year.

But, the website does have some clues.

In this image from the BENTELER website, we can see that they focus on modular systems. The image name itself calls this a skateboard, but one of the images looks like there may be no physical frame tying the drive units together, while the other is more of a traditional skateboard. Either way, the modular approach seems well suited to tailoring the vehicle to the needs of different transit or people-moving needs that entities may have.

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to when some of these get old and transit agencies start retiring them. They look like they’d be the perfect platform to build something custom inside of, like an RV. But, to really use it that way, we’d probably need to find a way to rig up manual controls for campsites and other off-pavement adventures. I don’t think that’s what HOLON has in mind, though!

All images provided by HOLON.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1984 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba