Croatian EV Maker Rimac Launches Verne to Revolutionize Autonomous Ride Share

The carmaker is used to exploding expectations, so maybe its new Verne subsidiary can solve the robo-taxi puzzle.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

June 27, 2024

9 Min Read
The Verne autonomous ride-share vehicle.
The Verne autonomous ride-share vehicle.Verne

At a Glance

  • A plush self-driving vehicle
  • A powerful app that lets customers summon and personalize the vehicle
  • A network of "Mothership" maintenance and charging depots to support the fleet

“This all seems unreasonable,” conceded Rimac Group chairman Antony Sheriff at the opening of the press conference to announce the Croatian supercar maker’s audacious attempt to remake the market for driverless robo-taxis, an area that has endured rocky times and high-profile challenges.

But after delivering an all-electric hypercar, the Rimac (pronounced “REE-mahtz”) Nevera to a skeptical market with otherworldly performance and a price tag to match, company founder Mate Rimac and his team have earned the right to make the case that they’ve designed a better solution. “Executing unreasonable things is what makes Rimac special,” Sheriff continued.

Industry veteran Sheriff was brought in to give the upstarts at Rimac the respected face of someone with stints at Aston Martin and McLaren. He is someone who knows how to separate hype from hope. Sheriff pointed to Rimac’s record of not only building its own amazing cars, but also acting as a supplier of advanced electric drivetrain systems to companies that have their own proud engineering heritage, like Porsche and BMW.

“Why can they do things while much larger organizations try to do the same things and struggle?” Sheriff asked. “Their battery systems are built for the best OEMs in the world because of the performance of these battery systems. All of that seemed impossible when we started. These guys just get on with it. Listen today with an open mind.”

Related:Bugatti Raises the Standard Again with the $4 Million, 1,800-hp Tourbillon


Meet Verne

Poring over the details of the announcement, the company makes a good case for listening to Sheriff’s suggestion. The new company is named Verne, in honor of futurist Jules Verne, who so accurately forecast nuclear submarines in his 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas that the U.S. Navy named the world’s first nuclear submarine Nautilus in tribute to his visionary fictional ship.

Now Rimac is naming its robo-taxi service after the author himself. Importantly, Verne is a service. There is a driverless car that is a crucial component of that service, but it is only a component. There are specifications for that car, but specifications are less relevant than experience when the customer is a ride-hailing app customer and not a purchaser.


The Verne car’s technology is interesting only as far as it contributes to the viability of the entire ecosystem Verne is creating to deliver the luxury of a chauffeured car to everyday people. “It is a chauffeur in a Rolls-Royce for everyone,” explained Mate Rimac. While the Verne car is compact on the outside, like a city car needs to be, it is spacious on the inside because there is no need for a driver or manual driving systems. This lets Verne deliver a premium experience with two airline business-class-type seats, an expansive 43-inch entertainment display, 17-speaker audio, and an indulgent circular skylight dubbed “the halo.”

Related:Rimac Electric Supercar Factory Tour

The Verne car fits into a system that also depends on the quality, reliability, and ease of use of the smartphone app that customers will use to summon and personalize their taxi and the “mothership” home base facilities that will be built in the cities where Verne operates to charge, clean, maintain, and support the cars. Verne will launch the autonomous ride-hailing service in its hometown of Zagreb, Croatia in 2026, has contracts to launch service in eleven cities in Europe and the middle-east, and is in talks with 30 cities worldwide. The only other city named so far that is committed to Verne service is Manchester, UK.


A Better Option

Matte Rimac, car enthusiast and hypercar entrepreneur, wants to emphasize that he’s not looking to take anyone’s car away. He only wants to provide them an option. “Ownership and driving cars will continue,” he said. “But most driving is not that exciting, You are stuck in a traffic jam. You want to play with your phone, which is not safe or legal.”

Related:Testing is the Secret to Rimac’s Success

None of us want to share the roads with distracted drivers who are looking at their phones. “We want to offer an alternative,” Rimac said. Today, that alternative typically means using a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft. “We don’t want to spend time in a stranger’s car,” Rimac pointed out, “especially if we send our children with a stranger.”


But so far, autonomous driving technology has failed to deliver on the hype. Rimac believes that partner Mobileye is prepared to provide reliable autonomy thanks to a raft of sensors and a powerful computer. They’ll use AI to do it, Rimac said in a talk with Design News.

“Most of the systems you see today are still based more on the previous development,” he said. “While I think now, in the next couple of years, we will see the next generation of systems that are developed less rule-based and more purely AI.”

The Machine

The cars themselves are two-seaters, because 90 percent of trips in cars carry only one or two people, he said. Larger parties can hail additional vehicles. Rimac also laid out the possibility for the Verne car’s skateboard-style chassis to eventually attach other bodies, such as ones with four seats or those that are optimized for customers with mobility limitations.


The Verne car has a 211-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels from a 60-kilowatt, 400-volt, lithium-iron-phosphate battery pack that will propel the car for 150 miles. It recharges at a 100-kW rate. But customers aren’t buying or charging the cars, or pressing an accelerator pedal or a brake pedal. The eventual target mass for the final product is 2,099 kg. (4,618 lbs.).

It has nine lidar units (three long-range and six short-range), five radars (one long-range imaging radar and four other imaging radars, and 13 cameras (nine vision cameras and four for parking). The clean, modern styling somehow manages to be attractive while incorporating these devices, which all have very specific requirements for location and orientation that normally produce odd protuberances.


The rooftop forward lidar, for example, requires a vertical face. Early iterations not only looked more obtrusive, but the sharp edge at the top fought the wind, to the dismay of aerodynamicists seeking to reduce drag. Rounding off the corner at the top helped reduce the aerodynamic penalty while preserving the necessary vertical front.

The important thing, said Rimac, was to avoid building what he terms “a toaster,” his derisive description of those ungainly designs that only an accountant can love. “Toasters are great on Excel,” he said. “They look like you can cram more people in it. And more people pay for the rides, therefore the economics are better. But people are not numbers in Excel.”

Engineers used Altair software to model the vehicle’s structure, MSC ADAMS (Automated Dynamic Analysis of Mechanical Systems) for dynamic modeling, and the OpenFOAM (Open Field Operation And Manipulation) C++ toolbox for aerodynamics.


What It Is Like

When the car arrives to the customer, they’ll get a ride across town ensconced in luxury car comfort. Sitting inside the prototype, there is ample space for 95th-percentile passengers who can ride in comfort while enjoying the video or audio entertainment of their choice. Ingress and egress is eased by power-operated (just like a Rolls-Royce!) sliding minivan-style doors that slip forward instead of rearward, for maximum ease of access.

Verne's head of concepts and package Alex Black described engineering those doors as one of the parts of the project that had to be developed. Parts like motors and batteries are off the shelf, while Verne’s team focused on getting the easiest-to-use doors possible, figured out how to get the car to drive itself in collaboration with the Mobileye team, developed the cushy reclining seats, and perhaps unexpectedly, developed the cleaning system the car will use to keep its sensors working with a clear view of the car’s surroundings.


These sensors will also be cleaned when the vehicle returns to its Mothership home base for charging. Verne estimates that each Motorship will be able to service between 250 and 500 cars and that a few thousand cars will be needed to serve the mid-size cities the company is targeting for early service.

Customers have pay-as-you go options or subscription options, depending on their needs, according to Rimac. When they need a car to wait while they go inside, customers will be able to do that without losing their ride and waiting for another to arrive. In the future, some customers might be able to have deals that are a hybrid between a lease, where they have exclusive access to a particular Verne vehicle but share that vehicle when they don’t need it.

It all depends on whether the company can bootstrap its ecosystem into a smoothly functioning system in many locations so that it can begin exploring options in terms of how the vehicles are used and what body styles might be available. As Sheriff pointed out in his introduction, the Rimac team backing Verne has already established the ability to “execute unreasonable things.”

To know whether they will pull it off would require a visionary. Like, maybe, Jules Verne?

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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