Whether it’s Google, Apple, Tesla or Uber, all the tech titans are continually struggling to win over the crown for “who will be first to deploy self-driving cars” on mass production. While the rivalry is getting fiercer among the top players, Amber, a Dutch underdog is quietly working consistently on the concept to overtake them all in one sweep.
So who is behind Amber?
Founded in 2016, by Steven Nelemans, Hans de Penning, Joep Sloot en Merien ten Houten, Amber is a flexible car sharing platform ensuring you on-demand mobility. The Eindhoven-based self-driving car startup is an intelligence platform that offers you a customisable, and a modular electric car designed to be shared.
Recently Silicon Canals got an opportunity to speak to Joep Sloot, founder and COO, Amber exclusively. During our short conversation, Sloot revealed about the Eindhoven-based tech startup’s future plans, challenges they are facing and overcoming and also the company’s revolutionary tech. “Amber is a car sharing platform for the B2B market segment and we’ve been doing this for a couple of years already. With this platform, we guarantee the availability of a car whenever you need it,” says Joep Sloot, founder and COO, Amber.
So how does it work?
Sloot notes, “The platform is entirely digital; the user can make a reservation via an app.” With the Amber app, users can reserve a fully electric car, get a notification where they can pick up an Amber car nearby and unlock the car and drive off. And after you arrived, at your destination, you can lock the car with the app.
Working on autonomous technology
The young team of Amber is aiming to become the Netflix of mobility. Sloot says, “Once the user makes a reservation, we make 100% sure that there will be a car available for them. However, the whole process of getting the car to the customer remains our primary challenge. Hence, to make it more efficient and easy, we are working on autonomous technology.”
He adds, “In fact, we are testing the technology to eventually make it possible for cars to reposition themselves from one after the other.”
For those who are not aware, Amber has successfully tested with platooning technology recently with its modified BMW i3 shared cars. Platooning is a form of autonomous driving where the driver drives the first car, and other cars automatically follow it. Amber has used modified BMW i3s for this. Below a short video of this test.
Joep Sloot notes, “With this technology one person can transport multiple cars at the same time. We have tested this technology during night time right now, as it lets the modified cars accumulate data, learn and behave accordingly. The next step would be to develop a more advanced technology so that cars can drive to the customer’s place during the daytime.”
The next big step
He also added, ” The first step has been successful, and over the coming years, we will be adding more hardware and software to control the cars better and make them more stable and reliable.”
On the software front, the Dutch startup is collaborating with five different software companies and research institutes, including TomTom, KPN, TNO, Nvidia and Microsoft.
Challenges: The Netherlands and self-driving vehicles!
Notably, the Netherlands is at the forefront of the countries that prepare legislation to facilitate the introduction of self-driving vehicles. Having said that, Sloot points that “hopefully there might be some legislation to make autonomous technology possible on public roads by the end of 2020.” It’s worth mentioning that, desk permit is still needed to drive the car.
How is Amber different from others?
“What distinguishes us from competitors in the car-sharing market is primarily the fact that we guarantee the availability of the cars. We operate the platform based on the demand of the users and not based on the supply of cars. Moreover, in the future we aim to make sure the cars are available in the right place at the right time with autonomous technology,” says Sloot.
Planning a new funding round
Last year, Pala Group BV invested in Amber. When asked about the future funding rounds, Joep Sloot said, “We are planning for a new funding round somewhere in the mid of 2019 to keep things going and to accelerate the growth of the platform.”
Moreover, Amber plans to have the self-driving cars on the road for testing purpose in Eindhoven around 2020, with the ambition of expanding the service to the rest of the Netherlands and Europe in the upcoming future.
Stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more updates in the tech startup world.