The Future of Connected Autonomous Public Transport and Mobility; Explained in the CAMINO Online Seminar

On May 14, 2024, the CAMINO project organised its first online seminar focused on the future of Shared Automated Vehicle (SAV) scenarios and market engagement. The seminar brought together key Public Transport Operators (PTOs), Public Transport Authorities (PTAs), project managers, researchers, and industry experts to discuss innovative visions and operational strategies for deploying such technology in public transport systems.

Seminar Objective 

The seminar aimed to involve PTOs and PTAs in planning the large-scale deployment of SAVs for public transport. By exchanging innovative ideas, the seminar aimed to facilitate the development of new networks, projects, and initiatives such as next-generation pilots and EU projects. The discussions emphasized the crucial role of participant feedback in shaping future projects and collaborations. 

Presentations and Discussions 

What is CAMINO about?

The CAMINO project aims to support PTAs and PTOs in defining the deployment of SAV concepts to improve the sustainability of public transport. The project focuses on bridging the knowledge gap among PTAs and PTOs regarding the planning and implementation of on-demand, automated public transport. 

Current public transport systems face challenges such as high operational costs and limited accessibility. Automated mobility offers a potential solution by reducing costs, increasing accessibility, and providing a sustainable alternative to private cars. According to a 2023 McKinsey report, this could lead to a modal shift of up to 42%. 

De Lijn: Future Scenarios for the Flemish Public Transport Network by 2035

De Lijn, a public transport company in Belgium, presented its vision for the future of  automated transport. With a revenue of €1.1 billion and 500 million passengers per year, De Lijn is at the forefront of integrating these technologies. 

-          AV Strategies: Koen Schietecatte from De Lijn presented an in-depth strategic study on shared automated mobility. This included an overview of their macroscopic traffic model for Flanders, which simulates various automated vehicle scenarios. The study emphasized the operational strategies and market analysis needed to achieve a significant modal shift, potentially moving up to 42% of trips from private cars to public transport. Examples included successful automated vehicle deployments in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Austin, showcasing the impact of 24-hour AV services without safety drivers. De Lijn also explored how piloting and expanding these services could prepare for a broader market demand, involving regulators, politicians, and other authorities in the process. 

Scenarios from PAV in Almere and Tendering & Market Engagement

The Planning for Autonomous Vehicle (PAV) project’s pilot in Almere aimed to explore virtual scenarios in preparation for future SAV developments in and around the city. The pilot included various phases, such as workshops, citizen surveys, and expert assessments to refine and optimize scenarios. From September 2019 to early 2022, the project focused on obtaining approval for public roads and promoting collaboration with manufacturers. Despite challenges such as the shifting focus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilot provided valuable insights for potential deployment strategies. Key challenges included lengthy approval procedures for public roads, moderate interest from manufacturers, and the need for extensive collaboration with municipal authorities and transport operators. The pilot highlighted the importance of involving urban planners and engaging the public to ensure the success of CCAM projects.

Lysander van der Sluis from Almere discussed integrating SAV into public transport concessions, focusing on managing technological and regulatory uncertainties. Almere's upcoming tender for the BRT city network and bus lines between Almere and Amsterdam, set for December 2027, was highlighted. The potential for SAV operations on dedicated bus lanes and first/last-mile solutions was also discussed. Almere aims to introduce a new service in the short-medium term that retains a driver, with the goal of removing the driver in future phases.

Traffic modelling of SAV deployments

Lesley De Beuckeleer from De Lijn showcased their detailed macroscopic traffic model, which includes 4,808 statistical zones across Flanders. The model, using PTV Visum software, simulates future transport scenarios and assesses the impact of automated vehicles on the current and future network. Discussions included choosing use cases for automated vehicles based on area selection and future market development scenarios.

Key Takeaways 

Preparation and Integration: How are organizations preparing for the transition to automated driving? Piloting projects are key, as seen with Ruter's efforts to prepare for a public procurement in 2026. This involves defining the market, engaging more cities, and involving regulators and politicians.

Transition to Digital Drivers: When should human-driven buses be replaced by digital drivers? Factors include achieving cost savings (e.g. drivers account for around 60% of bus operating costs in Norway), sufficient maturity of driver assistance technology, and broader acceptance by operators and the public, potentially by 2035.

Managing Uncertainty and Financial Benefits: How do we manage the uncertainty of technological and regulatory advances while ensuring offerings remain relevant? How can PTAs benefit financially from SAV? This involves several strategies:

-          Technological Readiness: Continuous testing and improving SAV technology to ensure it becomes more reliable and trustworthy. This includes piloting projects, like Ruter’s phased introduction of demand-responsive transit, leading to fully autonomous services.

-          Cost Efficiency: Reducing costs for both PTAs and PTOs is critical. Kolumbus AS highlighted that SAVs can offer better service for the same financial investment by increasing service offerings during weekends and in rural areas without additional costs.

-          Policy and Regulation: Establishing clear policies and regulations to manage technological advances and market readiness. For example, setting rules for AV operations in city centers, as suggested by Kolumbus, to ensure shared mobility is prioritized over private autonomous cars.

-          Financial Models: Developing financial models that allow PTAs to benefit from SAVs by sharing cost savings and revenue generation with PTOs. This includes exploring business cases for innovative services and expanding service levels due to new neighborhood developments.

 

The seminar highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts, continuous innovation, and strategic planning to successfully integrate SAVs into public transport systems. The insights and discussions from this event will contribute to the future developments and deployment of shared automated vehicles across Europe.

Stay tuned for more updates on CAMINO!