Technology

Automated Vehicle Deployments Gaining in Popularity

Posted on July 12, 2018 by Robert James

Easy Mile
Easy Mile
Automated vehicles are gaining in popularity around the world. There is quite a bit of press on the autonomous personal vehicles by Tesla, Waymo, and Uber. These vehicles operate with a wide array of sensors on board the vehicles that monitor the environment around them.
 
Automation Enabling Tech
Sensors alone for automation have demonstrated shortcomings in a number of scenarios. Weather, poor roadway maintenance, and line of sight have been significant limitations for sensor only solutions to automation. Increasingly, experts are recommending the use of connected vehicle technology to enhance the ability of vehicles to provide cooperative automation instead of stand alone operation. By sharing information, these vehicles can communicate their intentions with surrounding vehicles and share sensor data that may be beyond the ability of each vehicle to sense on their own. They can also communicate with the infrastructure to get accurate location information when lane lines and other visual indicators may be obscured. The use of ultra-wideband communication technology allows for this high-precision location.  

Many new automated vehicle deployments are for fixed-route applications with defined coverage areas, or for first/last mile deployments around a hub. These deployments enable connected vehicle and ultra-wideband technology to assist automated operations. University campuses, business parks, downtown circulators, parking lots, and airports lend themselves well to this type of deployment.

In the world of opportunity opening now, these defined area facilities will experience an enjoyable position as factors currently slowing deployment of automation on open roads are not an issue in these scenarios. These are often private environments setting their own rules and regulations, and therefore, able to adapt faster to new technologies or concepts. They also are controlled environments where situations can be anticipated, and a reasonable level of complexity in automation will be sufficient. Today, the set of operations required for an automatic handling process could be performed with a fully automated vehicle, while the complete automation (full automation for open road driving) is still many years away.

Local Motors’ accessible version of its Olli driverless, electric shuttle (shown) can direct a passenger who is visually impaired, to empty seats using machine vision to identify open spots and audio cues to direct the passenger.
Local Motors
Local Motors’ accessible version of its Olli driverless, electric shuttle (shown) can direct a passenger who is visually impaired, to empty seats using machine vision to identify open spots and audio cues to direct the passenger.
Local Motors

Automated shuttles and buses are adding new vendors on a regular basis. Many cities are fielding automated shuttles that showcase their Smart City efforts. While vehicle demonstrations have mainly been one or two at a time, there are several larger deployments around the world. Original equipment manufacturers like Mercedes and Toyota have now entered the market. While bus manufacturers have been late to get into the market, there is increasing interest in their development groups. Motor Coach Industries and New Flyer have expressed interest in working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the Lincoln Tunnel deployment to retrofit existing buses with automated technology. With the procurement release in June 2018, demonstration of five buses is planned toward the end of 2018 to demonstrate cooperative adaptive cruise control automated merging, and precision docking.

The vehicles being deployed come in several sizes with most interest in 10- to 15-passenger shuttles due to their flexibility and ability to adapt to various deployment scenarios. 2GetThere, EasyMile, and Navya have all deployed around 100 vehicles each. Below are some of the vehicles being deployed.  

Can Driverless Vehicles and Public Transit Co-Exist?

By Lauren Isaac

Imagine a future with driverless vehicles supplementing our transit systems ­— providing feeder service to the high-frequency, high-capacity core in addition to adding mobility options in less dense areas. The potential is huge — vehicles could be “right-sized” — with driverless vehicles ranging from personal pods to 15-person shuttles to standard 40-person buses, which means our roadway space could be better allocated and more efficient. Irrespective of who owns the vehicles (public or private operators), driverless vehicles are going to provide additional mobility options in a very targeted way.

One way to make sure that driverless vehicles are shared and these benefits are maximized is to ensure they are well-integrated with the public transit system. Ideas to consider include:
•    Trip planning — Integrate schedule information in order to provide the most customized information.
•    Fare integration — Integrate fare payments so that payments can be coordinated and seamless for customers.
•    Connection protection — By sharing real-time data, transit agencies, and autonomous vehicle service providers have the potential to minimize wait time during vehicle transfers.
•    Wayfinding, bus stop, and curb sharing — By clearly delineating and communicating bus stops and curb space for different mobility options, people will be more comfortable using shared-ride services.
•    Transit signal priority — Driverless vehicles will communicate with traffic signals, which creates the opportunity for those with higher occupancy to receive green light priority over other vehicles — especially if it helps them maintain their
        schedule.
It is no coincidence that many of these issues are already being tackled by Uber and Lyft. The challenges are not unique to driverless vehicles; they are relevant for the integration of any transportation mode. As with any integration — it requires the will, the resource dedication, and the technical know-how to bring disparate worlds together. Uber and Lyft are creating models for how the driverless vehicles of the future can integrate with public transit systems, though they are currently navigating these challenges.

As a supplier of autonomous shuttles, EasyMile has been working with public agencies and technology companies to be able to participate in these kinds of partnerships and integration. In fact, EasyMile is looking forward to providing a driverless shuttle in Denver later this summer that will connect a light rail station to a bus stop. This is only the beginning of the partnership with public transit agencies. Let the sharing continue.

Lauren Isaac is Director of Business Initiatives for EasyMile.

AV applications
The current state of automation has allowed the following application areas:
•    Low-speed, multi-passenger vehicles in mixed environments with pedestrians and other vehicles.
•    Established routes or separated facilities.
•    Operationally at Heathrow Airport, Las Vegas, Dubai, and University of Michigan.
•    Use cases and services:
    –    First/last mile service around a hub.
    –    Circulation for campuses, residential developments, and central business districts.
•    Current/planned automated vehicle shuttle projects.
•    Other pending projects:
    –    Airports (APM replacement, access to airport landside services).
    –    Treasure Island (San Francisco County Transportation Authority).
    –    Southwest Business Improvement District: District of Columbia Department of Transportation.

Many other vehicle types are being automated for transportation use. Michigan is testing an automated lane stripper to remove the risk to the driver from frequent rear-end collisions. Mercedes has demonstrated automated snow plows in Frankfurt, Germany. United Rentals is automating construction equipment for safer work zone applications.

In addition to passenger shuttles, airports can use automated vehicles in several applications. One significant application will be the automation of ground support equipment. Much of this equipment performs routine tasks between specific locations in the air field. One major manufacturer of GSEs, TLD, is actively deploying automation on their vehicles, equipped with automated sensors as shown in the figure below. TLD has worked with EasyMile to demonstrate automated operation of these vehicles, and also applying the technology to cargo loaders.
Automated vehicles are a rapidly expanding industry with applications for public transit, as well as improved transportation operations for several applications. The first operational deployments are fixed-route first/last mile deployments, but there is increasing interest to provide on-demand services. The operation on dedicated facilities and limited access roadways is close at hand and will raise the attention of automation. Connectivity will enhance the capabilities of automated vehicles and fill in the holes that sensors alone cannot meet. While fully automated on-demand to anywhere service is many years away there are several application areas that will be served by today’s automated vehicles.

Robert James is Chief Engineer Emerging Mobility for HNTB Corp.

‘Watson tech’-equipped shuttle to serve those with disabilities

In April 2017, IBM and ground mobility company Local Motors announced the  development of a self-driving, electric shuttle bus using IBM Watson IoT technology to serve people with vision, hearing, physical, and cognitive disabilities. We spoke to Local Motors’ Brittany Stotler to find out more:

Explain the features of the #AccessibleOlli?
#AccessibleOlli is a project we partnered with IBM and CTA Foundation on. We brought in technology from 17-plus companies for the final showing at CES [Consumer Electronics Show]. The top technology that we showed pertained to one of three personas — mobility, vision, and hearing. One of IBM’s engineers who is legally blind, and still works for IBM, participated in the project and offered valuable guidance and insight:  
 Mobility — We utilized an automated wheelchair ramp and securement device inside of AccessibleOlli, provided by Q’Straint’s Quantum. Your app preferences notify Olli that you need a wheelchair ramp deployed, then the user is able to move into the vehicle and press a button that secures their wheelchair.
 Vision — We worked with Ultrahaptics, a mid-air technology company, that is able to create ‘invisible buttons’ that you feel with the mid-air technology, or create an invisible wall to direct a person to an open seat inside of Olli. IBM Watson is able to converse with Olli riders, suggest restaurants or events nearby, and answer questions.
 Hearing — We worked with T-Coil loop, which connects via bluetooth to hearing aids, as well as with KinTrans, who provides bi-directional translation ability, translating sign language into text as well as voice to text.
 
What is the status of the project?
The #AccessibleOlli project is still a current project that our R&D team is working on, proving out different technologies and how they can be integrated and utilized, which make the most impact for persons with disabilities. We are submitting proposals for many municipalities through the RFI/P process, as well as working with smart cities groups and transit operators to develop plans for implementing Olli and creating a more holistic transportation ecosystem.

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