} ;

CES 2019: Modular architecture goes urban

11 January 2019 | by Chris Maillard

AEV Robotics seems to have won the on-trend buzzword bingo at this year’s CES. The Australian outfit’s offering is modular, shareable, swappable, electric, robotic, lightweight, wireless-charging, autonomy-ready, has skateboard architecture, and is designed for urban mobility.

However, this isn't a token box-ticking exercise – it actually looks well-crafted and feasible, and it’s got some highly credible names behind it. At the head of the company is ex-GM development head Julian Broadbent, who started the firm about three years ago, since when they've been quietly hiring people, working away under the radar and tackling the many demands of getting a new brand off the ground.  

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Chief Designer is Luciano Nakamura, another ex-GM hire who has worked with luminaries such as Tom Peters, John Cafaro and SangYup Lee (now of Hyundai/Genesis). His first vehicle on the firm’s four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer skateboard platform is designed as a city taxi, complete with some smart touches like sliding pneumatic doors to aid exits onto crowded pavements. Though the word ‘robotics’ in the firm’s name would imply autonomy, it has a fairly conventional wheel and pedals; a pair of sensor bulges in the roof hint that their own description of ‘autonomy-ready’ means they’ve played safe for now but may dive in when the time is right.

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But in fact that vehicle, creditable though it is, is not really the point. The idea is to roll out a set of pods, off-the-shelf or customisable for every urban use – light delivery vehicles, ambulances, mobile shops, refuse carts – in fact everything a busy city needs.

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The slick-looking platform is designed to be plug-and-play, with programmable software on the horizon as well as those bespoke bodies.

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It’s an interesting project with a lot of possibilities and a skilled team – they’re being laid-back and low-key in a very Australian way at the moment, but we could see this one making some highly interesting waves. Take a look at our gallery at right for more pictures (including some not taken in the rather questionable lighting of CES) and watch the video below to get an idea of their first vehicle in action.