French companies Citroën, Accor and JCDecaux have joined forces to launch The Urban Collëctif, a new brand that is proposing a collaborative solution to the challenges of urban mobility. Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée says the concept could become reality within five to seven years.
Citroën has created a design for autonomous, fully electric ‘skate’ vehicles which can be used with a broad variety of automotive bodies on top for low-speed urban mobility. The vehicles are intended for shared use, not private ownership, and Citroen plans to make the technology behind the skates open-source so that other companies can use the idea.
The partner companies in the collective have each created co-branded body styles, with each partner crediting the others for the impact of their combined creative efforts.
Hospitality group Accor has created two concepts that use the technology.
‘Sofitel en Voyage’ would replace the traditional hotel limousine, with a luxurious interior in a shell-like body. Hotel guests could be collected from stations or taken on outings, enjoying a glass of Champagne and contacting a concierge via video link.
The ‘Pullman Power Fitness’ concept is designed to give commuters time back in their day to have a cardio workout, with a rowing machine and a recumbent exercise bike inside – with energy expended by users employed to top-up the vehicle’s batteries.
Accor CEO Sébastien Bazin describes the group’s approach as one of developing “augmented hospitality.” This involves “trying to enlarge my relationship, and the time of that relationship, with my client way beyond only staying in the hotel walls”.
“How could I welcome you at the train station with an autonomous vehicle, how could I take you from the hotel while you are going for dinner, how could I help you exercise with Pullman?” he says. “I want to keep you within my arms and give you something you have never experienced before.”How hotel giant Accor plans to ‘reignite’ consumers’ love of travel
Meanwhile, ‘The JCDecaux City Provider’, which resembles one of the bus stops that the media group has installed in cities globally, can be hailed via an app and holds up to six passengers, with options to sit or stand for local journeys. It features screens to provide city information, offers a convenient way to explore cities, and provides a mobile out-of-home (OOH) ad canvas.
“Reaching out to partners, both public and private, in order to develop innovative and useful solutions to sustainably improve life in the city is fully in line with the mission of JCDecaux,” says chairman and co-CEO Jean-Charles Decaux.
“The result of close cooperation with Citroën and Accor, The Urban Collëctif symbolises JCDecaux’s desire to continue innovating and imagining the urban mobility services of tomorrow.”
The partner companies offer a combination of urban knowledge – with Accor running hotels and JCDecaux involved in bike-sharing networks as well as ad sites – with evidence of demand for a shared mobility system.
All of the pod designs sit on a footprint of just 2.6m by 1.6m. They would travel on dedicated traffic lanes, and be able to turn in a small space due to ball-shaped wheels like those that used to be used on a computer mouse. The skates could pick up and drop off the required body styles as required, and would travel at speeds of up to 25 km/h.
According to The Urban Collëctif, the Covid-19 pandemic has dented the popularity of traditional public transport, while private ownership of fully-autonomous, fully-electric vehicles is likely to remain prohibitively expensive – especially for urban residents who leave their cars parked for 95% of the time.
“We believe that we can move the subject of city mobility forward,” says Vincent Cobee. He describes The Urban Collëctif’s concept as a showcase for a system that could provide convenient urban transport for millions of people.
“This innovative project aligns perfectly with Citroën’s DNA – that of a brand which has been making mobility more accessible for all since 1919,” he adds.
The Urban Collëctif will now be seeking to convince transport authorities and operators, as well as additional manufacturers, to become involved in further discussions.