October 12, 2023
German automotive tech company ZF has agreed to a deal that will see its autonomous Group Rapid Transport (GRT) shuttle produced and marketed in the United States.
The Friedrichshafen firm is expanding its relationship with Houston-based Oceaneering with an agreement that will see the U.S. company exclusively manufacture and distribute the third-generation GRT vehicle for use on segregated lanes, initially in America.
It marks the next stage in a partnership that was first forged more than three decades ago, under which Oceaneering has collaborated with ZF subsidiary 2getthere to design and develop automated shuttle systems for entertainment venues across the world.
The GRT can accommodate 22 passengers – 14 standing and eight seated – and operate at speeds of 24 miles per hour. It features a 36.8 kW/h battery and can run around the clock with installed charging infrastructure.
As the name suggests, segregated lane shuttles operate in their own lanes, as opposed to in mixed traffic. According to ZF, this brings an array of advantages. Consistent speeds can be maintained, and when passenger volume is high, the frequency of service can be increased.
Fast-charging stations at stops ensure the shuttles never run out of power, and a magnet system built into the road surface means they can travel in any weather without breaking down.
According to ZF, GRT is the world’s most experienced autonomous transport system, with more than 62 million autonomously driven miles) since 1997 and more than 14 million passengers transported.
Among the GRT’s current deployments is the Rivium Business Park in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where it transports around 3,000 passengers a day along a route of 1.2 miles. This service has operated since 1999, and was upgraded to accommodate the third-gen GRT shuttle in 2022.
The new deal aims to deliver a four-digit number of GRT shuttles to customers in the coming years, with the companies targeting cities and municipalities seeking to enhance their mobility ecosystems, as well as airports and theme parks.
“This partnership is a logical and important step in the right direction towards our goal of a clean and safe mobility that is automated, comfortable and affordable, for everyone and everywhere,” said Alexander Makowski, senior vice president at ZF. “For shaping urban mobility of the future, autonomous shuttles are a key answer to reduce traffic, number of vehicles and emissions.”
Dave Mauck, vice president and general manager at Oceaneering added: “Leveraging our proven technology delivery expertise, Oceaneering can further build upon our three-decade-long relationship with ZF to offer complete, integrated technology systems projects for our customers.”
The deal is ZF’s second major move on the US market this year. In January, it revealed its next-generation Level 4 autonomous shuttle for mixed traffic at CES and announced plans to bring it to America in tandem with Beep.
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