Self-driving shuttles soon to link old town with Sion train station
Press release dated 17 October 2017
The operation of self-driving shuttles in Sion will be extended and the route expanded. The City of Sion, the Canton of Valais and PostBus agreed upon this extension. The Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) has given the green light to the route to be extended as far as the train station. Thus, PostBus continues operating this worldwide unique service of autonomous buses on public roads.
The yellow shuttle buses have been in operation on public roads since June 2016. The end of the first phase was scheduled for 31 October 2017 after more than 16 months of testing. Following its success, the City of Sion, the Canton of Valais and PostBus have decided to extend the SmartShuttle project. In order to gain more experience with these self-driving buses and to offer a new service, the route will be extended as far as the train station. The shuttles currently cover a route of 1.5 km around the old town of Sion. By the end of the year, the link to the train station will double the distance travelled. This means a regular service with self-driving shuttles will serve a train station for the first time in the world.
The two shuttles, named Valère and Tourbillon, will run several days a week in the morning and the afternoon on the new route. They will remain free to use and open to the public and will run in line with the schedule available to passengers on the dedicated app and web page. The partners have agreed to continue the service until at least the end of 2018. The relevant federal and cantonal bodies have granted the special authorisations. A safety groom will continue to supervise the operation and can intervene if necessary.
First smart traffic lights
The extended route between the old town and the train station will allow the self-driving shuttles to be tested on roads with a higher volume of traffic. On Avenue de la Gare, the SmartShuttles will communicate with traffic lights. This is a world first for an autonomous shuttle on public roads. PostBus has been testing such smart traffic lights since September in its private test centre in Berne. The necessary infrastructure will be installed in Sion in due time.
As partners of the Mobility Lab, the EPFL, the HES SO Valais, the Canton of Valais, the City of Sion and Swiss Post aim to use this second test phase to generate innovations relating to self-driving buses. Technological solutions to improve the interaction between buses and pedestrians, for example, is an important issue for usage in the future on a larger scale. The partners of the Mobility Lab intend to create innovative solutions to tackle these challenges.
A project with international reach
Since the launch of the project on 23 June 2016, the self-driving shuttles have drawn many visitors and experts from around the globe to the capital of Valais. PostBus has also conducted numerous demonstrations with the shuttle in Switzerland and in various European countries. In total, the SmartShuttles have already transported 60 000 people. By extending the route, the partners are convinced that the shuttles will continue to generate interest around the world. For Sion and the Canton of Valais, they also promote tourism and spread a key message regarding technology and sustainable mobility.