Autonomous vehicles integrated within the urban context
Automated (or autonomous) driving will bring a tremendous change in tomorrow's transport networks. This will have positive impacts in urban mobility, in terms of transport safety and efficiency and environmental impact.
The evolution of automated driving has followed two discrete paths: a) the one dictated by large OEMs that have started to incorporate automated functionalities in their luχury models and b) the one from SMEs that focus on small low-speed vehicles suited for urban mass transport. In the first case the target area of implementation is usually highways while on the latter the urban context. Taking into consideration that public transport is considered as the major enabler for solving issues related with the urban traffic, AVINT focuses on the specific implementation of automated vehicles.
Two are the main problems that prevent the wide implementation of automated driving: a) the technology that needs to mature in order to allow for higher degrees of automation and b) legal and organisational issues (e.g. the Vienna convention) that are due to the lack of an appropriate worldwide legal framework.
For small automated buses suited for urban context technology has relatively matured as the relatively low operational speed allows for safe implementation. Due to this fact more and more automated small buses from different SMEs have appeared in the last years and have been implemented in different European (and world) cities, mostly in strictly controlled environments (e.g. ports, airports, warehouses, private transport networks).
With regard to legal issues, at European level, there has been a significant boost in the last 5 years, mainly due to a number of European projects - in particular CityMobil2 (CM2) - to make operation of automated vehicles legal, at least at a testing phase. Greece has been among the pioneering countries in this aspect,as it has put in place from 2014 a legal framework that allows, under strict conditions, the operation of automated buses without a driver. Moreover Greece has played a vital role in pushing forward a European legal framework for automated driving (e.g. workshop organised on May 2014 under the auspices of the 2014 Greek presidency of the European Union, where ΕΠΙΣΕΥ and e-Trikala co-organized the event).
Going one step further, Greece has put forward a ministerial decision implementing the automated driving law for the CM2 automated buses pilot in the city of Trikala. The specific pilot lasted for 5 months (Oct. 2015-Feb. 2016) and accommodated more than 11.000 passengers. It included three phases: a) pilot phase without passengers, b) trials with passengers and an operator on-board to perform emergency stopping, if needed and c) passenger trials with no operator on-board. The pilot was organised by e-Trikala and ΕΠΙΣΕΥ.
In AVINT the same partners, having the practical knowhow form a similar pilot - the only one in Greece so far, and with the addition of SPACE Hellas Α.Ε. which will focus on the infrastructure adaptation will go one step further. AVINT will study the urban transport context in Trikala and will implement a bus line supported by automated buses (3 buses of 10 passenger each) in a full integration mode with the city transport network. The specific bus line will provide a viable service for the city interconnecting the city center with the ΤΕΦΑΑ university campus. To accomplish this AVINT will perform all the necessary steps: feasibility study, implementation study, infrastructure adaptation, renting and adaptation of 3 automated buses in order to organise a 6-month pilot. The pilot results will be thoroughly analysed with regard to their impact on the Trikala traffic, on the life of the citizens. AVINT will also examine the system expansion in the City of Trikala and will provide a Roadmap to overcome the main implementation barriers of automated driving in Greece by providing also practical examples of foreseen implementation in other Greek cities.