Since 6 June, the autonomous minibuses are running in Seestadt in test operation mode.
The project team – Wiener Linien, Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), Austrian Road Safety Board (KFV), TÜV Austria, Siemens Mobility and Navya – have prepared for the operation since April 2018. In particular all aspects of safety were put center stage in the phase of preparation.
The busses periodically will head for ten stops along the two-kilometre-long circular route. As this a test operation for research purposes, no substitute can be provided in case of a stoppage of operation – unlike all the regular bus lines.
Test operation or route service?
Test operation! The two electric buses are running in Seestadt as part of the “auto.Bus - Seestadt” research project. Among other reasons, this is being undertaken to further develop sensors that are important for autonomous driving, to test IT security systems and to see how passengers respond to the buses.
The goal is to permanently increase the efficiency and operational safety of automated vehicles. The following project partners are participating in this together with Wiener Linien: The Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), TÜV Austria, the Austrian Road Safety Board (KFV), Siemens Mobility and Navya.
Will other bus lines be stopped as a result?
No! Since this is not a traditional route service but rather an additional test operation for research purposes, the operation of all other lines in Seestadt will of course not be affected.
When exactly will the bus go?
Even though there is no timetable in the traditional sense, every effort will of course be made to drive the buses along the planned route on a regular basis during their test operation. A service is planned for workdays during the morning up until the early afternoon.
It is not possible to determine precise departure times for the time being as unforeseen delays may occur during the test operation. Bad weather such as heavy rain or snow could impede the operation of the autonomous minibuses. In case of disruptions, no replacement service will be provided.
Do I require a ticket in order to use the buses?
No! Passengers can travel on the buses for free. Since this is a passenger test service, a valid ticket is not required for the route of just under two kilometres.
Why was Seestadt chosen as a test site?
Seestadt is an ideal place to test autonomous minibuses. One of the reasons is that it is an urban area which has fewer complex routes than the city centre. Moreover, Seestadt is also an innovative living environment, – an ‘urban lab’, so to speak.
The autonomous bus was put through its paces on private land before the launch in Seestadt on 6 June 2019.
As part of a sophisticated process, the route was programmed in Seestadt so that the buses are safe when on the road and so that they follow the planned route to within a centimetre.
The stops as part of the route are also being created at the moment.
How does the technology work?
The electrically powered minibus made by Navya is equipped with 2D and 3D LiDAR sensors. These constantly scan the bus’s surroundings for potential obstacles.
With the aid of GNSS localisation (GPS, Galileo and GLONASS), the position of the bus can always be determined to within a centimetre.
Should a static obstacle such as a wrongly parked car be detected, the operator will take manual control of the vehicle and drive around the obstruction before the bus continues on its usual route.
How fast does the bus travel?
During test operation, the bus will travel up to a top speed of 20km/h. Owing to currently applicable legal provisions, higher speeds are not permitted within the scope of the research project.
Is the autonomous bus safe (for traffic)?
The autonomous bus is safe! The bus’s manufacturer, Navya, has already trialled the bus across hundreds of thousands of kilometres on test tracks during its development and continuously improved its safety as part of that process.
The two buses were also examined and tested in different scenarios beforehand over a period of several months by a project team on a Wiener Linien test site. Exacting standards of safety and reliability were applied during this testing.
The buses are equipped with different sensors in order to guarantee their safe movement among road traffic. Furthermore, a specially trained operator who can stop the bus or steer it manually is on board for every journey.
Is there air-conditioning and heating on the bus?
Yes! The bus can of course be both heated and cooled.
How long can the electrically powered bus drive for before it needs to be charged again?
According to the manufacturer, the bus can drive for eleven hours before it needs to return to the charging station. However, its actual running time is also dependent on the current temperature setting, the condition of the road, the weather, and the number of passengers to be transported.
How many people can fit on the bus?
The autonomous bus has seats for up to ten passengers as well as a pram. A further seat is reserved for an operator who is responsible for safety on board. Owing to current legislation, wheelchair users may not be carried and only the seats provided may be used. The transportation of standing passengers as well as wheelchairs is currently not permitted by law.
What if there isn’t a seat available for me?
There exists no entitlement to transportation while the buses are in test operation. If the bus is full or the operator on board decides that it is not possible for someone to travel on the bus at a certain time, that person has no entitlement to transportation.
WIENER LINIEN ensures that the technological developments are focused on the mid-term and long-term introduction of autonomous buses in the best possible way. The question of if, and how, it is possible to effectively integrate self-driving buses into a large transport company’s service is of particular interest.
AIT is responsible for the scientific management of the research project and will develop new sensor technologies, research novel interaction concepts with road users and explore road safety implications. In addition, simulation tools will be developed to face new planning challenges in terms of infrastructure, capacity and safety in relation to overall traffic.
NAVYA designs, manufactures, commissions and develops the intelligence of the AUTONOM SHUTTLES that will be used to implement the project.
The KFV performs an advisory role with regard to the current legal situation for autonomous vehicles and is gathering research relating to the possible development of the Austrian road traffic regulations (StVO).
In addition, the KFV will be in charge of the project’s communications and will prepare the residents of the Seestadt in particular for self-driving buses.
SIEMENS will develop the communication between the vehicles and the infrastructure (traffic lights, road signs etc.).
TÜV AUSTRIA will work on the functional safety and cyber security of the systems used and subsequently develop requirements regarding series production readiness for use on public roads.
A process and test criteria for a type approval of automated vehicles will be developed.