Objectives of the AVENUE project

In order for AVENUE to successfully realize its vision, a set of objectives are set, covering the project’s scientific, and technological aspects throughout its duration as well as the exploitation of the project’s results after its end. The overall project success will be defined by the efficiency and effectiveness of the appropriate synthesis, as well as the individual quality of the specific achievements related to the project’s objectives, clearly measured by the indicators defined. The AVENUE proposal targets the validation, via full scale trials in different European cities, of the usage of autonomous vehicles, complementing public transport in urban and sub-urban regions. The objectives of the project are:

The project aims to deploy and validate AVENUE in 7 different European cities where fleets of autonomous mini-buses (typically between 4 and 10 vehicles) will be integrated into the existing transport systems of 4 cities demonstrators in Geneva, Lyon, Copenhagen, and Luxembourg. Next to the 4 demonstrators, 3 other cities (Replicators) will be selected and integrated at the end of the second year, based on the maturity of the sites. Autonomous vehicles will be deployed in the demonstrator and replicator cities, in collaboration with public transport organisations and authorities, and will be fully integrated into the existing public transport services. Smooth integration will be ensured as demonstrators will operate already from day 1 at least one bus that they already purchased independently of the projects (increased maturity); an initial period of data collection and analysis will facilitate the planning of the smooth deployment, while full scale demonstrators will run for at least 2 years. During the project, autonomous vehicles of different capacities will be deployed, supported by new and innovative services and validate different models for public transport. The number of vehicles used and the number of passengers using the services will allow measuring the efficiency and success of the new autonomous vehicles services. Although the pilots will utilise small and large vehicles by NAVYA for practical reasons, AVENUE’s final solution will be vehicle agnostic and support various brands and types of vehicles. The integration of autonomous vehicles will complement and improve the existing public transport systems and offer an optimised approach to integrate traditional transport services with autonomous transport services with the goal of improving the services offerings for urban and sub-urban low to medium demand areas. Operational integration will enable coordination with conventional transport modes, while access to traffic and other useful data available will further enhance the reliability, safety and robustness of the overall service.

The long-term deployment of autonomous vehicles in various European cities (throughout the duration of the project) will allow us to face a very large number of complex situations and exceptional cases and adapt the road behaviour of the autonomous vehicles, while preserving the service quality for the passengers (for example anticipate situations based on past knowledge regarding specific areas and avoid sudden breaks). The ultimate target will be to at least reduce the number of incidents compared to the incidents that driver vehicles would have had in similar situations. Advanced data analytics and data fusion techniques will be used, along with appropriately adapted simulation, decision support and optimization algorithms to improve road safety performance of the mini-buses. The fusion of real-time data collected by in and out of vehicle sensors and systems will ensure increased safety of (a) the mini-bus passengers (by e.g. early and smooth braking, avoidance of collision, detection of unstable passengers, etc.), (b) the pedestrians, people at wheelchairs, cyclists and other (vulnerable) road users that may use personal means of transport, (c) passengers in other transport modes (ranging from motorbikes and cars to other means of public transport). The initial trials of the project will utilize vehicles already validated and certificated for usage in public roads. Improvement and modifications to the vehicles introducing new autonomous vehicle reactions and features will be first tested in controlled environments before being deployed in the urban/suburban set-ups. To ensure high level of safety, AVENUE employs two approaches of controlled validation: 1) in a closed controlled physical environment site and 2) in the controlled virtual environment AVL-Drive which is able to simulate more extreme and unexpected event and asses the drivability of automated vehicles in different driving conditions.

By integrating the latest technologies like personalisation of services based on user profiling, passenger and vehicle localisation and dynamic itinerary optimisation, AVENUE will provide autonomous vehicle public transport services a-lacarte, any-time, any-where and for any-body, with optimal service costs and with full integration and coordination with existing public transport services. AVENUE’s approach will include various innovative in- and out-of-vehicle services for passengers that will be designed with the user in mind to ensure the acceptance and promote a smooth integration of these novel technologies into a daily life-style. AVENUE will focus on the inclusion of both healthy users as well users with special needs and will develop services and solutions to accommodate their specific needs. Several target groups are identified in order to understand and incorporate a wide coverage of their needs into the personalised services: (1) Older children and adults who have no direct special needs; (2) People with reduced mobility; (3) Young children and elderly who require supervision.

New and innovative in- and out of vehicle value-added services will be developed and tested, improving not only the access to the public transport service, but also the in-vehicle comfort. These will be highly personalised, taking into account special personal needs of the passengers but also adapting the in-vehicle services to the actual state of mind of the passenger. By monitoring for example the in-vehicle behaviour of the passenger, we will be able to provide adapted information, or even modify the itinerary planning. It will also be possible to analyse the behaviour of users as a community of users of autonomous vehicles. Furthermore, extra focus will be paid to the development of accessibility services and solutions such as the natural language interaction services among others.

Public transport includes various services that provide mobility to the general public (including buses, trains, ferries, taxi, etc.). Shared public transport, like bus and tram services, play an important and unique role in the overall shaping of the urban public transport, by providing affordable and efficient basic mobility for non-drivers for urban travel. Changes in itineraries and planning can have diverse impacts (benefits and costs) on the complete public transport ecosystem and can even affect people who do not currently use public transport and also change the urban planning landscape. The project will conduct an in depth study of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the introduction of the new disruptive services or public transport, analysing benefits and costs not only from the point of view of service operation, but also quantify the indirect benefits like vehicle ownership, parking cost savings, or efficient land development benefits, change of modal transfer, working hour gains, gains in waiting time, energy savings, carbon footprint, noise, air pollution etc.

With the target of the adoption, acceptance and deployment of autonomous vehicles for public transport, we will produce comprehensive recommendations for both public transport operators and regulatory authorities, providing also a road path towards a fully automated urban and sub-urban transport system, taking into account all related issues (social, economic, environmental, legislation, infrastructure etc.). In combination with the socio-economic impact analysis, the recommendations will allow public transport operators and governments to plan in a holistic way and put in place the required measures for adapting and deploying autonomous vehicles in the next 10 years.