Designed as the way to transport people on first and last mile journeys lowering emissions and congestion, the four-seat, on-demand Pod is also good to go around big venues such as airports, shopping centres, campuses and theme parks. Recently the centrepiece of the world’s largest autonomous vehicle trial in Milton Keynes, it has also been hailed as a liberator for those with mobility problems or unable to drive. That has now led to a six-month test with charity Blind Veterans UK.
Turnover is forecast to reach £20m this year for the business, a division of Coventry-based RDM Group, an advanced engineering company and Tier One supplier to the automotive industry that was founded in 1993 by former Rover designer chief executive David Keene and his brother Graham.
When few thought there was a market for low volume, electronics expertise RDM proved otherwise and Aurrigo when it began four years ago was in similar pioneer territory.
The strategy it has pursued with offices in the US, Australia and Canada and six centres totalling 60,000 sq ft in Coventry has given it international clout and access to testing in different climates, while retaining control by keeping all design, development and manufacture at home.
“Growth in vehicle electrification and software complexity, major strengths of ours, have been big factors in our success and so too has Government backing of the autonomous sector,” explains Keene who sees Aurrigo outstripping its older sister to become biggest part of the group.
“We now have a team of 85 and own everything, including the control systems and autonomous software, which is not usual in our sector. But it enables us to be able to adapt quickly to what customers want. That said Aurrigo is definitely the most complex thing we have ever done,” he says.
The recent CES trade show in Las Vegas, where Pod Zero showed off its capabilities obeying passengers’ demands and banner advertising opportunities, has led to spike in orders including from China.
Now selling to Finland, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea too, a trial in an older residents’ community in Australia is coming up and the shuttle bus which can travel 140 miles on an eight-hour battery charge will launch in Cambridge. A two-seater Pod is also in the pipeline.
With ambitions to become a mass market manufacturer, Keene expects to develop Pod kits and set up other fabrication hubs overseas.
New investment in the range of £10-£20 million is likely to be sought this year. “This is very much a family business,” says Keene, “I began it in my back bedroom and it has hoovered up pretty much everything we have. It’s still hard to believe sometimes how far we have come.”
Published at Tue, 02 Apr 2019 12:21:00 +0000