When new technologies make their way onto the market, the industry tends to get giddy with excitement, like kids opening their Christmas presents, and the steady hype around automated vehicles is no exception. The future is full of possibilities, yet cities must make sure that this enthusiasm for the latest toy doesn’t come at their people’s expense.
This is exactly what the latest and biggest European project on automated vehicles, SHared automation Operating models for Worldwide adoption (SHOW), intends to do. It will explore the potential of automated vehicles in real life conditions and in ways where it will integrate and boost cities’ existing mobility offer.
So many options, one key word: ‘real-life’ testing
In Turin, for example, the city will test an on-demand automated shuttle service for hospital patients integrated with the hospital booking system. Several cities involved in the project, such as Karlsruhe, Geneva and Saltzburg, will use different automated vehicles models to expand the public transport system towards peri-urban and remote areas. Others, like Brno and Tampere, will work closely with educational institutions and test their automated vehicles within university campus grounds, or, like Linkoping, use automated vehicles for children’s last stretch between public transport stops and their schools. Since people are not the only moving blocks in a city, some project partners, like Trikala, will also test automated solutions for parcels and deliveries.
The variety of solutions is reflected in the variety of vehicles. The project will deploy more than 70 vehicles, from shuttles, to robo-taxis and one-person pods, to metros and busses, to delivery robots. A plethora of automated options with one thing in common: they will all have the highest levels of automation. This means that they will either have no need for human input at all, or at least not require the driver’s attention for safety, with the vehicle being able to safely abort its route without need of the driver’s intervention. For example, the driver may leave the driver’s seat, and the vehicle will be able to safely park itself in case it needs to suddenly interrupt the journey.
All local pilot sites, bringing together local authorities and partners from the research and industry sector, user groups, and local organisations, will test their respective solutions for a year. The tests will be done with everyday passengers and the automated vehicles will have to be able to operate safely in a complex urban traffic environment, either on dedicated lanes or in mixed traffic, where they will have to interact with different transport modes and users at speeds ranging from 18 to over 50km/h.
Learning steps to shape the future of urban mobility
Some of the pilot sites involved in the project already have experience with testing automated vehicles – for example, Trikala has already tested a 2.5 km route with an autonomous shuttle in mixed traffic in its city center. Other cities will have an opportunity to follow the process and develop their own automated solutions to test.
Collaboration is essential in a project of this magnitude, so it will also call on the experience and expertise of 11 global organisations from the US, South Korea, Australia, China, Japan and Singapore, among others.
The project will assess the impact that automated vehicles can have at city level on society and the environment, and will produce replication guidelines, road-mapping, reskilling and training schemes for the future workforce. It will also give input to certification and standardisation actions and policy recommendations and regulations to maximise the potential of urban traffic automation while also supporting societal goals such as better social inclusion, health and wellbeing, quality of public space, access to jobs and services, climate protection and energy-efficiency.
This project represents a unique opportunity to explore how the arrival of automated vehicles could fundamentally change urban mobility when integrated into the public transport network. If put to use in shared and connected fleets, automated vehicles could stimulate more flexible travel behaviour, significantly reduce car use and ownership in urban areas, and improve accessibility for all by offering a consistent level of on-demand services across the whole urban area. Want to get a chance to get involved? An open call for participation will be published in 2021, so stay tuned!
More about SHOW
SHOW is co-funded by the EU under the H2020 Research and Innovation Programme with a budget of €30 million. It will run until January 2024 and involves 69 partners from 13 EU-countries.
More on SHOW here