LocalMotion is Building Smart Vehicles to Save Energy

September 19, 2012

11:00 am

LocalMotion, now testing its technologies at Google’s Mountain View campus, wants to make transportation smarter and more social.

Imagine this: after a day of work, you reserve a car to drive home using your community’s transportation app. Or you just walk down to the lobby and see a list of possible cars on a screen. Like taxis, the available cars parked outside have a light on.

After your trip, the vehicle can recommend other options for next time, using sensors that detect how many people were in the car and where you went. For example, if you and one other coworker make daily trips around noon for an hour – probably lunch – it could recommend a small electric car that seats two. Or it might remind you that there’s a community shuttle passing by the restaurant at the same time. Sensors can also detect pedestrian activity around parked cars, so LocalMotion knows which areas are busy and need more vehicles.

LocalMotion has already developed all these technologies and is now working with organizations like Google and the Downtown Project in Las Vegas to bring them to local communities. Cofounders John Stanfield and Clément Gires had originally worked on short-trip electric vehicles; Stanfield built one as part of his thesis at Stanford. But they realized they could make any type of vehicle shareable and interactive – from bikes and electric bikes to gas-powered shuttles and cars – by making a few tweaks.

The LocalMotion team with their first vehicle

With funding from the VegasTechFund, LocalMotion is currently collecting transportation data in Las Vegas to bring the system there. The product fits well with the mission of the Downtown Project, which is partly to make Las Vegas “a community where people can live, work, and play without needing a car.”

“We’re really trying – the same as what they’re doing – to base it on community,” explains Gires. “We’re actually focusing on the people rather than the vehicle – how can we understand the people? How can we engage them? How can we use their pattern to serve them better? This is really our obsession.”

LocalMotion plans to launch a pilot in Vegas in the next few months. They will start with a few vehicles and beta testers, then open it up to the broader community.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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