Market analysis brings new insights into the capabilities of autonomous buses
The TUPPAC project is currently searching for the best suited autonomous buses to purchase for the project’s future tests. Therefore, TUPPAC has approached 10 probable suppliers of autonomous buses with a Request for Information (RFI). Based on the information received, an analysis of the emerging market has been carried out and valuable insights on the current capabilities of the autonomous buses have been obtained.
“We found through our Request for Information that the market is still immature and that many suppliers cannot yet offer autonomous buses at the level our project requests even though they are in the process of developing that service. But we also found a few European suppliers that can live up to our requirements that we will explore further”, says Kenneth Jørgensen, senior project manager at Gate 21.
Autonomous buses share similar features
The bus suppliers in question share many similar features when it comes to safety, speed, battery and weather restrictions – but they differ slightly when it comes to passenger capacity, ramps and fleet management systems. They are all minibuses that can serve between 4-11 seated and 4-6 standing passengers. The vehicles come as electric vehicles, but none of them offer fast charging possibilities yet.
Demand-driven bus services
Conventional buses are typically operated by pre-scheduled time tables and routes. But to handle a more demand-driven bus service in the future, the project has an ambition of dynamic routing by real-time vehicle location and status. Still, none of the bus suppliers in the market analysis have systems for dynamic routing, but it is foreseen that some (pseudo) dynamic routing can be offered within 12-24 months.
“Because the market cannot deliver on dynamic routing we are instead developing an advanced app-solution that will be able to deliver a more flexible bus service, but it is still uncertain whether the Danish Transport, Construction and Housing Authority will allow this kind of autonomous bus testing”, says Kenneth Jørgensen and continues:
“The software is a crucial issue for us because we want to develop autonomous collective mobility that can be demand-driven. This requires that we can develop and integrate new software with the existing in the bus that is delivered and used as part of the project”.
Safety first with a steward
Another key issue is safety. According to Danish legislation two scenarios are allowed when testing autonomous buses: 1) steward in the bus and 2) steward near the bus. In both cases the steward is not a driver but can take control of the bus manually if needed.
“All the involved bus suppliers can have a steward stationed in the bus to take over control if necessary. TUPPAC will begin testing with a steward on the bus, but the ambition is to test the buses with a steward near the bus and have it remote controlled by the control center which also narrows down the field of potential suppliers to our test”, says Kenneth Jørgensen.
Next steps towards testing buses
Following the market analysis, the TUPPAC-project team will conduct a bidding process and meet and negotiate with the suppliers to have an even more detailed insight in the buses capabilities. After this process three buses will be purchased from one supplier for testing both at DTU Campus in Lyngby and at Hersted Business Park in the City of Albertslund.
The final analysis from the RFI work will be published later this summer.
Planning the next step
The project is right now working on:
- Finalizing the visual identity and launching 1st stage webpage for the project.
- Starting application process for autonomous bus testing on public road, hereby involve assessor - third part, that can approve the safety of the projects first test-bed at DTU Campus. The Danish law (LOV-696) demands involvement of an assessor.
- Planning participation at the ITS World Congress held in Copenhagen in September 2018.
- Develop app-design solution based on IBM Bluemix Garage method.
Author: Lene Ulsted Carlsen, Communication Consultant, Gate 21