Ambitious goals for robot bus piloting in the FABULOS project

Artikkelikuva: Ambitious goals for robot bus piloting in the FABULOS project

The FABULOS project focuses on how cities can use automated buses in a systematic way. The goal is to procure the operations of an autonomous bus line. To be more precise, the focus is on a turnkey solution that can manage automated robot bus fleets as part of cities’ public transportation systems. During the field-testing phase of the FABULOS pre-commercial procurement, selected robot bus prototypes are tested as small fleets of shuttles.

Technologically, the shuttle buses do not need a driver or steward on board since they can operate fully autonomously. For the first time in Europe, the fleets are monitored from a newly established Remote Control Centre. In case of exceptional situations, a remote operator can give permission to pass an object, such as a car blocking the road, or take over the control of the vehicles.

As part of each 50-day field trial period, the functionality, interoperability and security of the autonomous fleets will be assessed. After each of the pilots, representatives of the six FABULOS procuring partners carry out an evaluation process.

The first round of pilots finalised 

The piloting was launched in April in Helsinki, Finland. Pilots in Gjesdal (Norway) and Tallinn (Estonia) followed in June–September 2020. During the winter of 2020–2021, pilots are launched in Lamia (Greece), Helmond (the Netherlands) and again in Gjesdal.

Each of the three suppliers chosen for this phase receives up to 740.000 euros to prepare pilots and implement operational systems to validate their prototypes. The three supplier consortia, composed of several companies representing 5 nationalities, are Sensible4-Shotl (Finnish–Spanish), Saga (Norwegian–Canadian) and Mobile Civitatem (Estonian).

Helsinki pilot 

The fleet of three autonomous vehicles, including the GACHA robot bus, drove along a circular route starting from the busy Pasila Railway Station, riding partly on a separate lane, with speeds of up to 40 km/h. The majority of the route was in mixed traffic and included several crossroads with traffic lights, right turns, street-side parking and a roundabout. There were three bus stops on the route and on-demand rides are available via a mobile app. Due to the Covid–19 restrictions, the number of passengers was relatively low, only 187.

“The main learning was the fact that our vehicles are safe to operate. We did have some issues with software and vehicle hardware but we had zero safety-related incidents,” concludes Aleksi Tepponen, FABULOS Project Manager from Sensible 4.

Tallinn pilot

The autonomous vehicle shuttles drove in traffic. Most of the pilot route the traffic was up to 30 km/h, one stretch of 500 m from the shopping mall to the airport was up to 50 km/h. The route included both right and left turns. The Ülemiste City quarter has mixed traffic including pedestrians and cyclists at low speed. The two ISEAUTO shuttles operated in self-driving mode in the vast majority of situations while the option to manually override reminded to assist in difficult circumstances. In total, 518 passengers took a ride with the ISEAUTOs during the pilot period.

“Most important thing we learned was the importance of the cooperation between different participants such as state, private companies, city council and universities. With good will and cooperation is possible to move forward quite quickly.” says Tanel Talve, Head of On-demand Transport from Modern Mobility.

Gjesdal pilot

The pilot involved two Navya shuttles and one human-driven Tesla for the on-demand service. The route offered challenges in terms of the speed, incline of 8 % and partly restricted views on crossroads. The speed limits were between 30–50 km/hour and there were some steep hills along the route, as well as high trees. The route included, for example, street side parking, turning left and right, one roundabout, a pedestrian bridge and 14 crossings with pedestrians. There were no traffic lights on the route. During the pilot, 1582 passengers tested the robot bus line.

“The best learning for us was the management of a fleet, and how much better service we could provide by offering a frequent autonomous bus service. We also gathered learnings on how to combine suburban and urban areas with such autonomous transportation services,” states Ingjerd Straand from Saga Consortium.

Second round of pilots ongoing

Second round of pilots was launched in November 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the field testing phase has been extended until February 2021. Each of the robot bus suppliers will pilot their solutions in two cities.

The Lamia pilot route is 3,2 km long and includes a dedicated bus lane with a speed limit of 40km/h. The route is adjacent to busy pedestrian and bicycle routes, thus forming a vibrant multi-mobility zone in the city. Also, the pilot zone includes several key city points of interest, such as the Police headquarters, the Driving Education Park and one of the five Secondary Schools in the city. The route is operated by Mobile Civitatem consortium from November onwards.

Saga consortium will have their second pilot in Helmond by offering a smooth transport solution for the first and last mile on the connection between Brandevoort railway station and the Automotive Campus. The route is 3 km long with four bus stops. The route is characterised by the presence of a secondary school, two roundabouts, a cycle street, different types of roads and a number of demanding intersections. The most challenging being the interaction with a great number of cyclists.

The Gjesdal pilot route offers Sensible4–Shotl consortium challenges in terms of the speed, incline of 10,3 % and partly restricted views on crossroads. The speed limits are between 30–50 km/hour and there are some steep hills along the route, as well as high trees. The route includes, for example, street side parking, turning left and right, one roundabout, a pedestrian bridge and 14 crossings with pedestrians. There are no traffic lights on the route.

The overall aim of the FABULOS pre-commercial procurement is to accelerate the introduction of new types of automated last-mile solutions entering the European market. Therefore, when the pilots are finalised, the procuring cities and any third-party procurers will consider initiating a public follow-up procurement in 2021 based on the insights gained from the FABULOS project.









Main photo: FABULOS project

Further information


Renske Martijnse-Hartikka

Mobile: +358 40 683 7979

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