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Two New Autonomous Shuttle Projects

The first service is run by an MIT spinoff called Optimus Ride and consists of a half-dozen six-seater electric vehicles operating within a 1,2 square kilometre industrial space in New York [1]. The second service is presented by Hamburg’s public transport operator HHA as a collaboration between a range of private and public actors [2].

At the New York site, the AV shuttles follow a 1,8 kilometres long loop. Each vehicle has two safety drivers; one behind the wheel and one in the passenger seat monitoring the vehicle’s state. Eventually, these operators will be replaced by remotely monitoring the shuttles from the company’s offices in Boston.

In the Hamburg case, they are now starting with trial runs with a new 10 passenger shuttle, and scheduling a launch in Hamburg’s HafenCity next year. The HEAT project (Hamburg Electric Autonomous Transportation) is partly financed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (with 3.7 million EUR), while a substantial part of the overall project is supported by resources from the private partners.

 

Personal comments

As the CEO of Optimus Ride Ryan Chin states in the article, current efforts are mainly aimed at refining the technology and increasing the awareness of (and acceptance from) the public and different stakeholders. When trying to match current AV technology with possible use-cases, it provides a reality check on the current state of (approved) autonomous shuttles. However, the shuttle development is largely driven by smaller actors with the major OEMs and tech companies focusing on different use-cases. Only time will tell if the first/last-mile shuttles are here to stay, or if they are more of an early transition mode focusing on the easier ODDs (Operational Design Domains). When considering cost savings as a result of AV technology, the biggest effect comes from replacing the driver when there are few passengers. It can also be argued that the more people who share a ride, the more each person must compromise from their desired route and travel times [3]. What type of future AV mobility landscape we end up with will likely be the result of both politically nudged societal objectives as well as individual preferences when it comes to choosing between competing mobility solutions.

 

Written by Victor Malmsten Lundgren, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-08-06. New York City’s First Self-Driving Shuttle Service Is Now Open For Business.

2. 2019-08-01. HEAT in Hamburg – a new autonomous shuttle unveiled by HHA and project partners.

3. 2019-07-29. Pioneer Navya Goes Beyond Building Robo-Shuttles, But Were They Ever A Good Idea?