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Here’s What’s up in the Autonomous Shuttle Department

They’ve been around for quite some time now; electric, autonomous shuttle buses. But how are they doing, and what is currently happening? [1,2,3]

Well, they don’t show any signs of slowing down their progress. There are two major ongoing EU-projects to remember here, called AVENUE and SHOW.

AVENUE aims to introduce autonomous shuttles as a sustainable, viable and environmental solution for urban and suburban transportation in four European cities. One of these sites is Nordhavn, an industrial port development area in Copenhagen, Denmark, where these vehicles are set to roll out on a loop with six stops around the seafront, hopefully, to be realised within two years. Professor Dimitri Konstantas at the University of Geneva is coordinating the AVENUE project and envisions this service to operate as a public transport solution which will both integrate Nordhavn efficiently with nearby train- and bus stops (no trains or buses are currently operating this new development area), as well as becoming an on-demand, door-to-door service where people get picked up and can go wherever they want. [1]

SHOW aims to deploy more than 70 automated vehicles (shuttles, cars and buses) in 21 European cities to assess how they can be integrated with various kinds of transportation systems and diverse users’ needs. According to Guido Di Pasquale from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in Brussels, “SHOW will be the biggest ever showcase and living lab for AV fleets”. He points out some key issues that need to be addressed, such as demonstrating safety and security, enabling higher speeds, handling mixed-traffic and creating remote control solutions for safe operations. [1]

Developing tools for combined mobility, such as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), is mentioned in both projects as a crucial ingredient for efficient future transportation systems where autonomous shuttles can be one piece of the puzzle. Moreover, authorisation is emphasized, where cities have to prepare by obtaining the necessary permits to operate autonomous shuttles. And guess what, these can differ quite a lot dependent on which city you look at! [1]

Let’s end with a newsflash of what else is going on out there:

Taipei City Government and start-up company Turing Drive has signed a memorandum of understanding to operate an autonomous shuttle service on dedicated bus lanes from May 2020. The route is 12.3 km long and three kinds of shuttles of different sizes and passenger capacities will be deployed. [2]

In Linköping, Sweden, the research project “Ride The Future” has started where two different autonomous shuttle vehicles from French manufacturers Navya and EasyMile have been deployed simultaneously within the Linköping University area. The aim is to find out how autonomous shuttle services best can work as a complement to the existing public transport system. The two vehicles will be evaluated on their interaction and how they behave in different scenarios. [3]

 

Personal comments

Undeniably, a lot is going on here, which is very interesting to see. Vehicle automation is continuously approaching commercialisation (even though some steps are very small and time-consuming), but we must make sure that they are used as a solution to sustainable transport, not increased use of resources. As inspirationally mediated from the book “Three Revolutions” published by author and professor Daniel Sperling in 2018; we should steer towards automated, shared and electric vehicles for a better future with huge public and private benefits, including more transportation choices, greater affordability and accessibility, and healthier, more liveable cities, along with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Written by Hampus Alfredsson, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2020-03-13. Driverless shuttles: what are we waiting for?

2. 2020-03-13. Taipei to operate autonomous shuttle in bus lanes.

3. 2020-03-11. Självkörande bussar rullar i Linköping. [Swedish]