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Objective and scope

The objective of this Horizon work programme topic is “to mobilise the procurers and PCP instrument to develop new robotics related solutions in a smart city context … with focus on smart mobility”. Some leading smart cities in Europe have been piloting with robotics as part of future’s public transport already. For example, the world’s first pilots with autonomous buses on open roads was taken in Helsinki in summer 2016 (SOHJOA project), with pilots on closed roads in the previous year (CityMobil2 project).

The goal of FABULOS is to deliver a systemic proof-of-concept on autonomous last mile public transport as part of the urban areas’ existing transport system, based on use of autonomous self-driving minibuses for transporting people. Previous technical demonstrations on closed and open roads with autonomous minibuses has already been taken. The next step is proof-of-concept that can demonstrate economic, technical, societal and legal maturity of the solution in real life, integrating to the ecosystem around, and in a scale large enough (e.g. full
system abilities demonstration at TRLs 7 to 9).

In grand perspective, planning for carbon-emission neutral mobility in the urban areas in Europe has been very difficult. In many cities most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from transport. From city perspective, lower emission target for mobility has been difficult to make actionable due to high use of private cars. This is mostly due to last-mile mobility needs to the home and to the office, which is often too expensive currently to arrange with traditional public transport means. Mobility is however changing rapidly globally due to ‘servicification’ and digitalization.

Many envision that the future mobility flows will be radically different due to design thinking, autonomous vehicles and digital, personified just-in-time and on-demand services. More so, autonomous transport technologies have been seen one key opportunity to arrange better and more cost-effective last-mile public transport. In Europe, traditional transport planning has had hard time in approaching the digitalisation and automation, and US start-ups like Uber have already started to fill this void. This is especially true for the robotics in mobility. The dominantly USdriven approach to robotics in vehicles has been focusing on autonomy of the private car. This has been seen to lead to a radical increase the vehicle miles travelled (VMT), which would make the cities’ ambitions on sustainable urban mobility very difficult.

For automatization of the road-based public transport, there have been a number of trials, mostly taken in Europe and employing minibus-type fleet. A prime example of these trials is the Helsinki-based SOHJOA project, which delivered the world’s first autonomous buses on open
roads in the summer of 2016. There are several European manufacturers of the autonomous minibuses, for example French companies Easymile, Navya and US-based Local Motors having a factory in Berlin. These manufacturers have been successful in delivering autonomous minibus systems for closed-road environments like power plants and airports. The robotic bus technology is fast approaching its market readiness stage; however current transportation systems are not equipped to deal with such type of transportation. Most importantly, the integration and management systems of autonomous fleet as part of public transport are completely missing. There is currently not yet enough commercial incentives (demand) for the autonomous vehicle companies to develop these systems. Also, the cities would need to open their technical operating environments (mobility ITS systems, control systems, PTA systems, APIs, C-ITS and IoT environments) which would let the integration to take place. FABULOS is the world first demonstrator of these demand side commitments. FABULOS focuses on how the cities can use autonomous buses in a systemic way and how to integrate them into the public transport services development and operations. The Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP) instrument is a perfect instrument to tackle this challenge because of:

  1. The current technical readiness level of the state-of-the-art, and the project length (time in years) of the PCP process would be ideal to the directed maturation of the autonomous minibus and fleet management technologies
  2. The joint network of cities as the procuring authorities would provide enough common technical framework that would let the suppliers develop the integration of the autonomous vehicles to these cities’ mobility systems – for example giving cities’ common selection of the smart city APIs and other technical features to be used for the system in the pilots. Also, project partners have previous experience of two separate procurements of autonomous minibus vehicles, and have learned and identified the need for detailed new research and development activities that address the integration of fleet management, the vehicles and their operations, to which PCP is estimated to be a suitable instrument in size and approach. This estimation is based on project partners’ previous hands-on experience of Horizon2020 Pre-Commercial Procurement projects in robotics and smart city platforms.

Project outcome

The goal of FABULOS is to deliver a systemic proof-of-concept on autonomous last mile public transport as part of the urban areas’ existing transport system.

More information

Visit project website

Oscar Nissin, Project Manager

Oscar.Nissin [at] metropolia.fi