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Cities demonstrating cybernetic mobility

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Removing obstacles in automated transport’s road

By focusing on legal and technical aspects concerning the entire road transport infrastructure, EU-funded researchers have been able to demonstrate the viability of automated transport as a safe and convenient solution to urban mobility.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

The ambitious four year CITYMOBIL2 project deployed two fleets of six ten-passenger driverless vehicles in Italy, France, Switzerland, Finland, Greece and Spain. These vehicles, equipped with localisation and perception systems, were installed with on-board computers to process data and make vehicle control decisions. The vehicles successfully communicated with a centralised management system that made decisions at fleet level, attributing missions to each of the vehicles depending on demand for transportation. A new philosophy The success of the four year project could transform how we look at automated transport. ‘The focus to date has been on putting technology on board vehicles to enable them to go anywhere, without any consideration of the environment or infrastructure,’ says CITYMOBIL2 project coordinator Professor Adriano Alessandrini from the University of Florence in Italy. ‘I would argue that this is no good, as you are relying entirely on the technology on board to ensure safety. If you teach a car to drive like a human, you can expect the same number of fatalities.’ The CITYMOBIL2 project therefore focused not on making vehicles more intelligent, but rather on taking a holistic view of the entire transport system in order to demonstrate that the system as a whole is failsafe. This, Alessandrini, points out, is the concept that has been used for the last 20 years for automating metro and rail transport. ‘Automated technology has been around for decades,’ he adds. ‘It is not new. The challenge is finding suitable technology providers, and what we tried to do in this project was use off-the-shelf technology as much as possible. The focus should really be on rethinking the entire transport infrastructure, and thinking about the way we manage it so that it can be used safely by different users at different speeds. The advent of automated transport gives us this opportunity.’ How to tap market potential A key project challenge was bringing vehicles onto the streets in seven different countries that operate under seven different legal frameworks. ‘We had a great experience in Greece, where a special law was enacted in time for us to operate a fully automated bus,’ says Alessandrini. ‘In other countries we worked closely with the ministries; in France for example, we were able to run automated buses as long as there was a person on board ready to take over. To transform these tests into real market products however, we need to go much further than that.’ The potential for market roll out, says Alessandrini, is there. ‘There are three or four makers of fully automated shuttles I can think of; one of these companies was created as a direct result of this project,’ he says. ‘All are in position to deliver fully automated last-mile shuttles and can replicate what we achieved in this project. But we need policy makers to support us.’ What Alessandrini would like to see now are the project’s results rolled out on a larger scale. For example, he would like automated transport to break out of the ‘last mile, low speed’ box and start making cross-town trips. ‘We have presented project proposals to the Commission around this as we believe that this is something that will change the business case,’ he says. ‘This could really lead to profitable automated public transport. But again, we need the necessary legal infrastructure in place.’


CITYMOBIL2, automation, transport, road, safety, vehicles, infrastructure

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