Project introduction ---

FABULOS brought self-driving buses to the streets of Europe

Artikkelikuva: Project introduction

The FABULOS project sought an all-inclusive shared automated mobility service, where  fleets of self-driving shuttles were part of the existing public transport system. This was done through a public pre-commercial procurement.


The FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation Systems) project focused on how cities can use automated shuttle buses as part of public transportation. The goal of the six Buyers Group members was to use a Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP) to buy R&D for the operations of fleets of autonomous buses and to accelerate the introduction of automated last-mile solutions entering the European market. A real-life demonstration of the economic, technical, societal and legal maturity of such (last-mile) services was required and was indeed achieved during the project. 

The challenge was put forward because the Buyers Group believes that this kind of intelligent transportation system will be a key part of future urban mobility. It can complement existing transport systems by facilitating (electric) last-mile public transport, thereby making the entire (public) transport system more efficient, flexible and sustainable.

Duration, partners and funding

  • Duration of the project was January 2018 – March 2021.
  • FABULOS was a Pre-Commercial Procurement project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 and six procuring organisations* that sought the development of an all-inclusive shared autonomous mobility solution for last-mile public transport in urban areas, in order to make existing public transportation in cities more flexible, efficient and sustainable. The procuring partners were supported by one technical partner: Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki
  • The project organised a pre-commercial procurement innovation challenge, in which a number of commercial suppliers participated with their own solutions and prototypes. The procurement had a total budget of EUR 4.5 million, divided over three competitive stages. Each of the phases of the competition provided added value for the participating companies via technological and service development, testing and validation, visibility and learning. In the third and last stage, the three different prototypes were tested in six pilots. These took place between April 2020 and March 2021 in Lamia (Greece), Gjesdal (Norway), Helmond (Netherlands), Tallinn (Estonia) and Helsinki (Finland).

*The procuring organisations were Forum Virium Helsinki, Finland (Coordinator and Lead procurer), Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Estonia, Municipality of Gjesdal Norway, Municipality of Helmond Netherlands, Municipality of Lamia Greece, Sociedade Transportes Colectivos do Porto (STCP), and Public transport service provider in the Metropolitan area of Porto Portugal.

The role of Forum Virium Helsinki

The FABULOS European project was coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki. FVH also was the Lead Procurer and managed all dealings related to the Pre-Commercial Procurement, such as contracts, evaluations and payments. FVH also was the main contact point for the funder, i.e. the European Commission. In addition, FVH organised the cooperation between the cities and the Suppliers. FVH led the work package on Communication and Dissemination, thereby being responsible for both local as well as international communication. This included e.g. the website, social media, newsletters, press releases, video productions, image bank and final conference. Helsinki’s field test took place in the busy Pasila neighborhood: together with the piloting companies Sensible4 and Shotl and together with the several city departments, Forum Virium was closely involved in setting-up the pilot.

Key achievements of the project

The companies that participated in the final phase of the FABULOS PCP and their automated shared mobility solutions were as follows (see below). 

For more information on the Suppliers and their solutions, please click on the links.

  • Mobile Civitatem Consortium with four Estonian partners: Modern Mobility, Tallinn University of Technology, AuVeTech and Fleet Complete. This consortium is testing their own Iseauto vehicle, together with new automated driving systems, including smart bus stops.
  • Saga Consortium with four partners: Mobility Forus, Halogen and Ramboll Management Consulting from Norway together with Spare Labs from Canada. The team is interdisciplinary and consists of the project management team and operators from Mobility Forus and a design team from Halogen. Software integration and smart transport solutions are provided by Spare. Finally, management consulting and traffic engineers come from Ramboll Management Consulting. The consortium uses vehicles from a subcontracted French manufacturer, Navya.
  • Sensible 4 – Shotl Consortium with two partners: Sensible 4 from Finland and Shotl Transportation from Spain. Sensible 4 is utilising the automated GACHA bus for the field testing while Shotl is providing a on demand technology.

The project had set by default technology advancement targets beyond the current state of the art for participating consortia, in compliance with the nature of the Pre-Commercial Procurement framework. As such, expectations regarding technological maturity of the products were significantly high from the start. In this context and despite efforts of the all three consortia, it was clear that some of the most challenging technical requirements could not be met. Nevertheless, the pilot showcased technology maturity levels high enough to make the integration to public transportation systems feasible in the near future. Solutions went beyond State of the Art in several ways. Technical improvements achieved by Suppliers (in summary):

  • In Helsinki and Gjesdal, the speeds of the pilot vehicles could be increased to 30 km/h, even with passengers on board and even with steep hills (Gjesdal) and a busy urban environment (Helsinki). This shows that the solution provider (as well as the road authority providing the permission) fully trusts the technology. 
  • Capability to manage a fleet of vehicles in busy urban mixed traffic conditions
  • Operating with 4G connections. Indeed, 4G proved to be completely sufficient for ensuring robust, low latency and protected communications. This could be crucial when operating in less developed parts of cities. However, teleoperation (direct remote operation) of the vehicles may require faster connections, such as 5G.
  • All vehicles in FABULOS proved to be able to undertake and succeed in all national exemption and permission procedures.
  • Scalable solutions, in challenging geographic conditions such as 10% incline/decline.
  • Operations of a Remote Control Centres at all pilot sites, monitoring the vehicles. However, even though developed in FABULOS and technologically proven to be possible (in Phase 2), the Suppliers opted not to use the remote operators  to make difficult decisions on the route in real traffic (Phase 3), but rather relied on the safety drivers/operators. 

True driverless remote operations, where a remote operator monitors multiple vehicles simultaneously from a remote control center, require further improvements in infrastructure, such as 5G connectivity and more research and development in general.

  • Similarly, dynamic routing or automated obstacle avoidance was developed by both Sensible4-Shotl and Mobile Civitatem and proven as technologically possible in Phase 2. However, also here the Suppliers opted not to use them on the route in real traffic, but relied on the safety drivers/operators to make difficult decisions. 

This is understandable as it is up to the consortia to assess risks and choose the safest way to operate, but on the other hand this proves that more technical R & D to operate on a commercial scale in a busy urban environment is needed. 

  • Operational integration to local public transportation systems can be realistic and feasible via the utilization of open APIs and open standards.
  • Improvements in localization technology of the vehicles allowing operations on areas and routes which have previously required additional landmarks or seen completely unfeasible.
  • Capability of passing traffic lights in open road conditions if the lights have been equipped with necessary communication units.
  • Validation and improvements of autonomous driving kit retrofitted in various different vehicles.
  • Increase in the technical robustness and reliability of the pilot vehicles and overall solutions.

Next to this technological impact, the Procuring Partners  also attach high value to the – less tangible – impact on local ecosystems and knowledge building. Due to the testing of these innovative solutions, the capacity of all local and regional stakeholders in understanding and navigating through the specifics of autonomous vehicles and their systems and implications has dramatically increased during FABULOS. 

Benefits to Helsinki

FABULOS went beyond previous tests with self-driving shuttles in Helsinki. The route in Pasila was the most challenging so far: it took place in busy mixed traffic conditions, in  30-40 km/h zones and consisted of a 3-vehicle fleet. One vehicle was the award-winning GACHA shuttle, the other 2 were retrofitted existing vehicles. For the first time in Finland the vehicles were monitored by a newly established temporary Remote Control Centre. Also for the first time, speeds of 30km/h were driven in mixed traffic conditions. HSL cooperated to integrate the route in Helsinki’s public transport route planner.

In addition to the pilot in Helsinki, 5 other pilots took place in Lamia (Greece), Gjesdal (Norway), Helmond (Netherlands) and Tallinn (Estonia). It was a huge benefit to see and experience all different solutions. All in all, 6 different vehicles were used by the 3 Suppliers, 13675 km was driven in mixed traffic , 3157 passengers were on board (despite the COVID-19 pandemic), average speeds ranged widely from 9 to 20 km/h and maximum speeds from 18 to 30 km/h. Autonomous mode was driven 80% to 98% of the time and also varied widely between Suppliers.

Beyond the State of the Art

In general FABULOS technical advances beyond the state of the art are the increase in the technical robustness and reliability of the pilot vehicles and overall solutions. Concretely, in Helsinki and Gjesdal, the speeds of the pilot vehicles could be increased to 30 km/h, which is way beyond the speeds in other pilots across Europe. Capability to manage fleets of vehicles in busy urban mixed traffic conditions, while operating with 4G connections. The Suppliers provided scalable solutions, in challenging geographic conditions. Operations of a Remote Control Centres at all pilot sites, monitoring the vehicles. Improvement of dynamic routing / automated obstacle avoidance technology and localization technology, allowing operations in areas which have previously required additional landmarks or seen completely unfeasible. Validation and improvements of autonomous driving kit retrofitted in various different vehicles.

Exploitable results

Results that can be exploited are first and foremost the actual prototype solutions from the 3 Suppliers validated via 6 field tests in real-life mixed traffic conditions. Suppliers will exploit these by (first) using them as the basis for follow-up R&D and pilots and (then) turning them into commercial services and products. The FABULOS Buyers Group and Preferred Partners will exploit these via follow-up procurements of pilots and/or deployments. 

Project materials

The FABULOS project generated lessons on political, economical, social, technological and legal aspects of shared automated urban mobility. Concretely, information can be found in the various FABULOS deliverables on: 

  • Pre-Commercial Procurement as a useful (funding) tool for innovation. The functional specifications and step-by-step field test planning are available for everyone to use.
  • Technical capabilities of automated shuttles in mixed traffic, including information on speeds, public transport integration, Remote Control Centre set-up, autonomous overtaking, and physical & digital infrastructure adaptation. See videos here.
  • AV permission and exemption processes in Estonia, Finland, Greece, Norway, the Netherlands and Portugal
  • The role of cities in bringing automated shared mobility to the streets
  • Passenger survey & non-user acceptance research.

Many of these lessons are reflected in Deliverable D5.6: Policy paper – Future application and impact of project results and learnings.


Further information:

The FABULOS project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and ran from 1 January 2018 until 31 March 2021. Forum Virium Helsinki coordinated the FABULOS project and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences acted as a technical advisor. The FABULOS project had partners in Estonia, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.

Forum Virium Helsinki is making Helsinki the smartest city in the world together with companies, the science community and citizens.

Further information


Renske Martijnse-Hartikka

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