Amber - The Full Story

Amber - The Full Story

May 5, 2017
Steven Nelemans

It’s been a few weeks since “the announcement” at the Hannover Messe, where Amber stated that it would be the first in the world to deploy self-driving cars on a large scale. Since then, the general image that people have of Amber has changed from “the new Dutch automotive OEM” to a self-driving car company. I can understand that you might be getting a bit confused about Amber’s goal and vision, because we seem to be doing a lot of things at the same time. And although that last part is true, what we’re doing is actually pretty simple.

Amber is a mobility provider. Just like Netflix gives you unlimited access to movies, and Spotify your favorite music at any given moment, Amber will give you unlimited access to on-demand, guaranteed mobility. Because Amber will make sure that a car is available where and whenever you need it, you won’t have to worry about the hassle of car ownership any more.

To achieve our end goal of providing unlimited on-demand mobility, we plan to develop in a series of four stages, or steps, which I’ll explain below. Then I’ll make a rough sketch of what the future will look like when our plan succeeds.

Step 1:  B2B Platform

The first step towards reaching the end goal is the Amber Mobility platform in a business to business environment, where we provide mobility for companies. Currently, every company has its own mobility policy, and they are all individually looking for a solution for their over-crowded parking lots, their ridiculously high costs and their ensuing impact on the environment. The Amber Mobility platform offers these companies a subscription on mobility, fully customized for each company’s needs. With this subscription, the company joins a so-called “Amber Mobility hub”, where the employee gets access to a fleet of fully electric BMW i3s with the guarantee that a car will always be available within walking distance.

The Amber Mobility app uses an intelligent software system based on predictive analytics. The system incorporates historical and real-time data to predict where and when users will need cars. This means that overall, fewer cars are needed to service a group of employees. In mobility provider terms, it means we can improve the user-to-car ratio, which is a key aspect of our business model.

BMW i3s of the Amber Mobility platform

Step 2: B2C Platform

The best part about the Amber Mobility hubs is their scalability. After the first hub is established, new hubs can be created around other facilities of participating companies. As more companies get involved, more potential hubs can be created. As individual hubs grow, we arrive at step two, where private users join the Amber Mobility platform and help the hubs to grow even further. Mixing private and business users together in the platform means that we can improve the user-to-car ratio even more – more people will be able to use a single car. In the end, we want to be able to use as few cars as possible for the largest possible group of people while still guaranteeing everyone mobility.

Because Amber owns all the cars in the platform, the cars are not only shared between employees, but also between neighboring companies. These Amber Mobility hubs demand fewer cars, which results in less environmental impact and a lower cost per employee. Even on a very small scale, let’s say 40 employees, the benefits are huge, both for the customer and for the environment.

Step 3: Self-Driving Cars

While the hubs are growing and our service is expanding, a new logistical problem arises. Cars will need to be transferred between hubs or cities by human drivers, which obviously takes a lot of time and money. It’s time for step three: Self-driving vehicles. The self-driving vehicles we are developing will be used for the distribution of cars to where the users need them. They won’t be used for driving people around, which means it’s a much simpler use case, and a smaller barrier for implementation. With an SAE level 4 vehicle, we can already take care of the entire distribution of cars in the Amber Mobility platform. At first, we will only use them at night and on roads without much traffic. This way, we can slowly grow towards a real-time balance between supply and demand. In practice, this means that your car will be driving towards you, whenever you need it. The first self-driving cars will already be operational in mid-2018, which means that Amber will be the first in the world to deploy self-driving cars on a large scale.

Step 4: Amber One

But we’re not done yet. So far, the Amber Mobility platform is using BMW i3s, but we want to implement our own car. “Why are you building your own electric car?” That’s the question I get the most. Allow me to tell you. Car manufacturers need to make money to stay in business, and they are currently doing that in two ways. First, they sell a car to someone. Then after the sale, they make money on maintenance and repairs, right up until the owner gets rid of their car and buys a new one. To say that this is an outdated, environmentally unfriendly, and expensive business model would be an understatement. It’s called “planned obsolescence”. Cars today are designed to break down so that the manufacturer can make more money.

Amber’s business model is different. We sell a service instead of a “product”. Because we use cars to provide a service instead of selling the cars, it’s in our own interest to make sure that that the cars work, last a long time, and require as little maintenance as possible. But like I stated above, cars today haven’t been designed to be shared – they’ve been designed to be sold, and owned.

So to make our lives as a mobility provider easier, we are developing the Amber One, the first car specifically designed to be shared. With its lifespan of 1.5M km, its energy consumption of 12 km/kWh, and modular design with many interchangeable components, it’s the ideal car for our platform. With this car, our running costs or “costs of operation” of the car are extremely low, allowing us to also offer our service for just € 33 per week.

Our solution is unique in a number of ways. First of all, it’s unique because of the guarantee for on-demand mobility. Second of all, it’s unique because of the fact that we’re using our own car, the first car in the world designed to be shared.

The Amber One

“Just be normal!”

So that’s it. Pretty simple, right? I know what you’re thinking, though: “This is easier said than done”. I know that. I have been accused multiple times of making complex things seem way too easy. But the thing is, we know what we want to achieve and we know how to achieve that. And still in the eyes of many people (especially the Dutch), we are crazy. But the fact is, I’m tired of hearing Dutch people make up excuses that prevent them from doing amazing things. In the Netherlands you often hear the phrase, “Just be normal, because then you’re already crazy enough as it is”. In this country and especially in Eindhoven, we keep looking to Silicon Valley as the model of innovation and success, but the truth is that those success stories could happen anywhere in the world. The only reason that they’re coming from Silicon Valley is because excuses aren’t tolerated there.

Amber is going to be one such “Silicon Valley success story”.

Let’s take a quick look into the future. What will it look like when everyone uses Amber? Well, first of all, direct CO2 emissions by cars will be non-existent, since everyone will be driving sustainable electric cars. We won’t need as many parking lots, since there will be fewer cars on the road and those that are there will be driven instead of left to take up space for most of the day. Parking lots can be turned into parks or playgrounds, and street parking can be turned into bike lanes, sidewalks, or terraces. Traffic jams will be a thing of the past, and you won’t have to worry about car repairs or unexpected costs.

But most importantly, people will have access to incredible freedom of mobility: Mobility beyond what you’re used to with your own car or public transportation. In the end, we plan to provide users with something that’s more convenient, affordable, and environmentally friendly than owning a car. Our tagline is “freedom far beyond car ownership”, and we mean it.

So to summarize, we plan to accomplish all this in four steps:

1.       B2B mobility platform: Create mobility hubs for companies using existing electric cars

2.       B2C mobility platform: Include private users

3.       Make cars self-driving

4.       Implement the Amber One

Go ahead, you can tell people.