The FABULOS project has spent the past 1.5 years developing autonomous shuttles. The robot buses are now ready to hit the road. As of this spring, three prototypes of the robot buses will be evaluated in realistic conditions in five European cities. All shuttle solutions provide a comprehensive service for autonomous last mile transport. The unique properties of the solutions are tested and adapted to the geographical challenges.
In the field testing phase of the pre-commercial tender of the FABULOS project, selected prototypes are tested as small shuttle fleets in Estonia, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway. The three suppliers selected for this phase will each receive a maximum of 1 million euros to prepare pilots and implement operational systems to validate their prototypes. The three supplier consortia, consisting of different companies from five countries, are Sensible4-Shotl (Finland-Spain), Saga (Norway-Canada) and Mobile Civitatem (Estonia).
Focus on turnkey solution
Although FABULOS is not a vehicle procurement project, it does take a systematic approach. The focus is therefore on a turnkey solution that can control fleets of automated robotic buses as part of urban public transport systems. This gives cities access to transport solutions that are more attractive, affordable and sustainable. Citizens, in turn, receive urban mobility alternatives more tailored to their needs, with seamless transport across the entire public transport network.
“Helsinki wants to become the most functional city in the world. Innovation to support optimal urban living conditions forms the basis of our strategy. The promotion of sustainable modes of transport is therefore a high priority. We focus on a pleasant environment, good accessibility and trouble-free transport, as well as a reduction of the impact on the environment. In my opinion, the FABULOS project can make a significant contribution to this objective by showing the benefits of autonomous public transport”, said Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki.
Pliot phase started
The pilot phase with the self-driving shuttles has already started in Helsinki, Finland. Pilots will follow in Gjesdal (Norway) and Tallinn (Estonia) in June 2020, although there may be some delays due to limitations due to COVID-19. Pilots will be launched in the autumn of 2020 in Lamia (Greece), Helmond (the Netherlands) and again in Gjesdal. Each of the suppliers carries out the pilots with its robot buses in two cities.
The functionality, interoperability and safety of the autonomous shuttles are assessed over a period of 50 days. After each of the pilots, representatives of the six FABULOS procurement partners conduct an evaluation. A pre-commercial tender does not have one “winner”: all prototypes of the robot buses are expected to be put on the market and may form part of a follow-up contract.
Robot buses on the road in five European cities
The first pilot was started on April 14, 2020 in Helsinki. The fleet of three autonomous vehicles, including the GACHA robot bus, follows a route that starts and ends at the busy Pasila train station and runs partly on a separate lane, at speeds of up to 40 km / h. The fleet is under mixed traffic on most of the route and involves several intersections with traffic lights, turns to the right, street parking and a roundabout. The route has three bus stops and you can indicate that you want to use the shuttle via a mobile app.
Technologically speaking, the shuttles do not require a driver or flight attendant on board, because they can drive completely autonomously. The fleets are monitored from a newly built Remote Control center; unique in Europe. In exceptional cases, a remote operator can authorize overtaking an object, such as a car blocking the road, or take control of the vehicles.
The overall aim of the pre-commercial tender of the FABULOS project is to accelerate the introduction of new types of automated last mile transport to the European market. Therefore, after completion of the pilots, contracting cities and external contractors will consider starting a public follow-up in 2021, based on the insights gained during the FABULOS project.
Written by: editors Smart City Hub.
Header image: Forum Virium Helsinki.