AVENUE is an EU funded project under Horizon 2020 (grant agreement No. 769033).The project started on the 1st of May 2018 and will last for 48 months (4 years).
AVENUE aims to design and carry out full scale demonstrations of urban transport automation by deploying, for the first time worldwide, fleets of autonomous mini-buses in low to medium demand areas of 4 European demonstrator cities: Geneva, Lyon, Copenhagen and Luxembourg, and later on to three (3) replicator cities. AVENUE revisits the offered public transportation services, starting from the original problem, which is to allow passengers to move from one place to another. It takes into account their special needs and time constrains, instead of trying to accommodate autonomous vehicles to the existing solutions of pre-scheduled bus itineraries. In this context, AVENUE introduces disruptive public transportation paradigms on the basis of door2door services and the nascent concept of the ‘Mobility Cloud’ aiming in setting up a new model of public transportation. This model enables multimodal public transportation blending conventional public transport with novel service models such these of the sharing economy, and making use of all possible transportation modals (from bicycles, to trains and of course autonomous vechicles).
In- and out-of vehicle services that substantially enhance the passenger experience, the overall quality of the service and the value added to the passenger will be introduced, targeting also elderly people, people with disabilities and vulnerable users. Road behaviour and security of the autonomous vehicles as well as passenger safety, are central points to the AVENUE project.
Public transport is a key element in the economic development of a region and the quality of life of its citizens. All around the world, public authorities define strategies for the development of efficient public transports based on different criteria of importance to their regions, like its topography, citizen needs and sensibilities, economic barriers, environmental preoccupations, historical development etc. On the other hand, new technologies, transport modes and services are appearing, which are very promising to the support of the regional public transport development strategies. In Europe, we can identify several strategies that are under development for public transport.
From one side we have what we will call the “traditional models”, where one or more public or private organisations provides all public transport in the region using buses or tramways (metro or similar) and where their strategy is to improve the services via the improvement of the buses and tramways.
From theo other in many cities, more disruptive models are developed where all possible means of transport ranging from buses and tramways to bicycles and shared ride services are used under one common model and various services are proposed for its support, under what is called “Mobility Cloud”.
In all the mentioned mobility models, it is recognised that the use and integration of autonomous shared vehicles has the potential to drastically improve the services and provide solutions to many of the problems faced today in the development of sustainable and efficient public transport.
The AVENUE targets
This is exactly the ultimate target of the AVENUE project, to demonstrate the suitability and efficiency of the use of small and medium autonomous vehicles (AV) for different transport models that are under development in Europe.
In AVENUE’s vision for the future public transport in urban and sub-urban environments autonomous vehicles will ensure the safe, rapid, economic, ecological and personalised transport of passengers, minimizing vehicle changes, picking them at their doorstep and depositing them as close as possible to their destination.
To this end the project’s mission is to demonstrate that autonomous vehicles will be a key element of the solution for public transport in the future. The project will not only assess the road behaviour and safety of the autonomous vehicles in public transports, it will also demonstrate the economic, environmental and social advantages of autonomous vehicles for both the exploiting companies and the users, opening the way for a full scale adoption of autonomous vehicles in public transport after the end of the project.
AVENUE will integrate, adapt, develop and validate innovative in- and out-of-vehicle services for passengers, maximising the personalisation and optimisation of itineraries, and making travelling a real experience for its passengers.
AVENUE will revisit the offered public transport services, starting from the original problem, which is to allow passengers to move from one place to another. Instead of only trying to accommodate autonomous vehicles to the existing solutions of pre-scheduled bus itineraries, AVENUE will start by considering the special needs and time constrains of passengers and the different available means of public transport in cities. In this context, AVENUE targets the creation of disruptive public transport services aiming for setting up a novel model of public transport based on on-demand environmentally friendly personalised public transport available anytime anywhere and making use of the most convenient transport means. AVENUE will validate different transport models in different European cities, according to their specific transport models and public transport strategies integrating autonomous vehicles and innovative services.
Public transport Challenges
Public transport service quality refers to how the service is perceived by the passengers. The commonly used criteria for the definition of the quality of a public transport service are;
- Availability, coverage & accessibility: when & where transit service is available, ease of access to stations
- Service frequency service: during the day
- Travel time: (absolute and compared to other means)
- Reliability: observance of the published time schedule
- Integration: ease of transferring within the service and with other travel modes
- Pricing, affordability and methods for payment
- Traffic safety
- Passenger security and comfort
- Universality: able to accommodate passengers with special needs (persons with disabilities, to passengers carrying baggage, foreign language speakers).
- Information availability about the service
- Extra services enhancing the passenger experience
Public transport operators aim to improve services through an optimal balance between increased and improved service (more vehicles, more km, comfortable, convenient, reliable, etc.), usage incentives (lower fares, Parking-and-Rail etc.) and costs.
The most common criticisms of public transport concern the low speed and flexibility compared to private cars, the high transport fees and the reliability and availability of the service. In today’s era where the user empowerment, personalisation and continuous connection to mobile services is becoming the dominant trend, public transport services have very limited options to reply to the constantly increasing passenger needs (ex. service personalisation, health issues, handicaps).
Although different on-line services providing information and trip planning based on the fixed time tables and itineraries are available, they cannot provide the asked service personalisation. Similarly, in-vehicle services are limited to publicity distribution, next bus stops and service disruption announcements. The passengers end up being satisfied by the simple preservation of the existing service quality, since no major improvement can be foreseen.
Autonomous Vehicles – towards a disruption for public transport
Autonomous vehicles will provide the next revolution in urban and sub-urban transport. The major companies advertise the autonomous cars as the ideal solution for business and family travelling. However, autonomous vehicle transport will have an even higher impact and provide more services when used in the frame of public transport services.
The use of autonomous vehicles for public transport requires the development of new service models that will transform the “simple” ride into a user experience, taking into account the diversity of passenger needs, offering personalised services and covering areas that are not economically coverable today.
Although autonomous public transport vehicles are under pilot testing in many cities around the world, the major barrier for their large-scale adoption is that the transport operators, public authorities and passengers are not yet fully convinced of the safety (road behaviour) of the autonomous vehicles (and in consequence different regulatory restrictions cannot be waived to allow the full exploitation of the autonomous vehicle potential).
Many questions remain unanswered, relating to solid evidence of the vehicle's secure operation in today’s complex urban streets, where they will co-exist and share the roads with driver vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, etc. for many years to come. The large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicles, combined with on-line services, user profiling and dynamic itinerary optimization, will have a snow-ball disruption-effect on today’s public transport model.
The disappearance of the drivers will allow transport operators to deploy more vehicles, which will lead to reducing the size of the vehicles, which in its turn will allow vehicles to divert from the predefined itineraries and start offering door-to-door services (based on on-line dynamic reservations and optimisation), leading to transit service personalisation and the introduction of new personalised, user oriented services, improving the user experience, and in consequence increasing the acceptance and use of public transport services. Furthermore, many cities have started proposing, or considering, alternative means of public transport combining all possible and available transport means, from fleets of autonomous vehicles to public transport, shared ride services, (electric) bicycles etc. providing the right means and combination of transport for the specific trip, known as Mobility Cloud. The integration of autonomous vehicles will boost the concept and allow a far better approach for public transport in urban and sub-urban environments
AVENUE draws and builds upon the accumulated experience from its consortium of 16 partners from 7 European countries, and the operation of Navya’s 65 mini-buses in 22 cities from 13 countries in 4 continents that already demonstrate reliable and safe operation at pilot sites by transporting over 180,000 passengers. The project activities are organised in 10 workpackages that are implemented within 4 years.