How can cities use automated buses in a systematic way? The FABULOS project has narrowed down four innovative solutions to this challenge, providing a variety to choose from a procurement point of view, and encouraging companies to reach for top level innovations.
Self-driving minibuses have already been tested in technical demonstrations in various countries, but a proof-of-concept for the management of autonomous fleets as part of the public transportation provision is not yet available. The FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation Systems) project focuses on how cities can use automated buses in a systematic way. From a project point of view, FABULOS is procuring research and development, and the goal is to come to an all-inclusive solution for the operations of an autonomous bus line.
During the FABULOS project, interesting solutions have been offered, and in the year 2019, four consortia made it to the prototyping phase as follows:
- The Saga Consortium is combining self-driving buses from different manufacturers over APIs to one platform for the transport operator to control.
- The Mobile Civitatem Consortium has a clear goal: to extend the reach of public transport to wider service areas, including rural areas, and improving also the service level.
- A consortium consisting of Sensible 4 and Shotl wants to combine autonomous buses to an on-demand shuttle service, operating in all weather conditions.
- The FVF consortium can install their technology on any vehicle and offer an on-demand service integrated into the local traffic and public transport infrastructure.
The four consortia have been testing their prototypes in closed environments during the autumn of 2019. From February 2020 onwards, in the third phase of the FABULOS pre-commercial procurement (PCP) , solutions are to be tested in urban settings within mixed traffic. Stay up to date and follow the fabulos.eu website, subscribe to FABULOS Newsletter or connect to our social media accounts for updates on the exact start dates and locations of the pilots.
Boosting innovations and providing variety for public procurement
How to procure something that does not exist in the market yet? The FABULOS project has encouraged companies to take part in the EU-funded pre-commercial procurement, which enables different and competing solutions to be developed, tested and compared.
Using this type of innovation tool in the FABULOS project has been a great opportunity to gather feedback from companies about the procurement method. Based on interviews with the participating companies, it seems that the competitiveness and boosting of innovation are seen as an important asset of this tool. Also financial assistance, close cooperation with a large (potential) Buyers Group and having a first testing ground are seen as valuable.
“It’s our first time to participate in such a procurement. I like that there is much less paperwork and the focus is on innovation and on the achievement of the goals. Also, competition with clear milestones makes it quite clear and simple.”
Pirko Konsa from Modern Mobility and the Mobile Civitatem Consortium
“This is an excellent opportunity for our company, because the project is fuelled by an actual need that we are trying to meet by developing the best service and technology solutions. Thanks to pre-commercial procurement, the FABULOS project has the chance to promote expertise in autonomous traffic within the EU, which is an asset, because current global competition in the field is fierce.”
Tapio Taipalus, Sensible 4
“It is much better for a small, agile innovation team to be involved in pre-commercial procurement for two main reasons. Firstly, it creates an even playing field where smaller teams can pitch innovation and find R&D funding for projects that might otherwise only be seen by larger organisations. Secondly, it provides the funding bodies and buying communities with an accurate view of what is actually feasible. ”
Dan Davies from Fleetonomy
What does the future of autonomous traffic look like?
The autonomous vehicles will have undoubtedly a great impact on future cities and their infrastructure – not to mention the automotive industry. The FABULOS project gives a strong market position and technical advantage for those companies that have participated in the FABULOS pre-commercial procurement. All the four consortia see the great future opportunities in the field of autonomous traffic, both commercially and systemically. For example, with fewer cars running on the streets, there will be more space for other functions and activities. But before all this can take place, the cities must find the right use cases for automated shared vehicles and adjust their local regulations. Also public transportation providers, as well as national level regulators need to be involved in the process. After solving these challenges, there are multiple possibilities that autonomous traffic can offer for the cities as well as their residents.
“We believe in the near term we can have autonomous vehicles operating in mainstream traffic offering passengers options for their rides across the city environment.”
Dan Davies from Fleetonomy and the FVF consortium
“We hope that autonomous shuttles will mean that there is no need to own a personal car, because public transport is more convenient for the passengers. There could be different kinds of automated vehicles: slow-moving vehicles for parcel delivery and last-mile transit, and some faster vehicles for highway transport.”
Ingjerd Jevnaker Straand from Halogen and the Saga consortium.
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 have been finalised, the six procuring authorities and a group of Third Party Partners will initiate a public procurement of innovation. Fingers crossed that all four consorta will be successful in this procurement process!
FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation System) is a research and development project that seeks to establish and deliver a systemic proof-of-concept for automated last-mile public transport as part of the existing transport system of urban areas, based on the use of self-driving minibuses. The FABULOS project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and will run from 1 January 2018 until 31 March 2021. The FABULOS project has partners in Estonia, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.