Continental wants to have thousands of them networked together in a city.
Continental takes inspiration from nature for the autonomous vehicle of the future. It’s Bee, an acronym for Balanced Economy and Ecology mobility concept, would act as a network of driverless vehicles for everything from hauling cargo to transporting people. Think of them as the worker bees of a city.
“Driverless vehicles will form the backbone of the transport of people and goods in the ever-expanding metropolitan regions of the future,” Dr. Elmar Degenhart, Chairman of the Executive Board of Continental AG, said about the concept. “Robot vehicles such as our Bee vehicle should be affordable, enabling mobility for all.”
The Bee isn’t much to look at. The vehicle is essentially a box on wheels with transparent panels at the front, sides, and roof. The windows would double as digital displays for entertaining the passengers inside.
People would summon the Bee from a smartphone app. The vehicle’s electric motor would allow speeds up to 37 miles per hour (60 kilometers per hour) and a range of 218 miles (350 km), which would be plenty for multiple jaunts around a city. The front wheels would turn individually for accessing even tight areas.
Continental’s dream is to have thousands of Bees in a city, and they would function an autonomous swarm of vehicles. Various sizes and body configurations of them would specialize in tasks like carrying people or hauling goods.
The Bee only exists in virtual reality at the moment, and Continental admits that the vehicle is years away from actually seeing production. Much of the technology already exists, but it’s not sophisticated enough to function on public roads yet. Cities would need to install new infrastructure and the right regulations before a swarm of autonomous vehicles could really hit the streets.