FRANKFURT -- It's no surprise these days to hear the CEO of an automaker talk about building a fleet of autonomous robo-taxis to move people around congested urban centers. Daimler, Renault-Nissan, General Motors and Ford Motor all have said they are working on self-driving vehicles for ride-hailing services.
Now, Tier 1 suppliers are flexing their muscles in the robo-taxi world, with Continental even building an autonomous shuttle to move workers around the German giant's sprawling campus here. The CUbE — a rectangular block of a vehicle — runs on electric motors and arrives on command from a smartphone app. Trials began this year.
But Continental isn't eyeing a future where it produces fleets of the CUbE shuttle for customers.
"We are not an OEM — we don't want to be an OEM," said Alfred Eckert, director of advanced technology in Continental's chassis and safety division.
Instead, Continental's investment in the robo-taxi space is about opportunity. Autonomous-driving technology is about to explode in growth, and suppliers aim to grab a significant chunk of the business. Experiments in self-driving technology are rolling out at a rapid pace. Automakers and suppliers are teaming up in new collaborations. The flurry of investment suggests that these companies believe the day a self-driving pod shows up on a consumer's doorstep for a trip to the airport is fast approaching.
Continental executives say supplying autonomous technology has huge market potential.