Experience the mobility of the future up close
Anyone interested can use the two self-driving SmartShuttles in Uvrier free of charge from April. Book your next journey with the new SmartShuttle App.
“Smart Shuttle” Overall Project Manager
PostBus – new mobility concepts
First test runs of self-driving shuttles in Switzerland
PostBus has gained lots of valuable experience with the SmartShuttles in Sion and has transported almost 54,000 passengers through Sion city center since 2016.
It is now entering the next exciting phase with the same partners after PostBus made a successful application to the Avenue (Autonomous Vehicles to Evolve to a New Urban Experience) research project. The vision is to tailor bus services intelligently and flexibly to the mobility requirements of municipalities and their residents in future. The targeted solution aims to provide safe, efficient and eco-friendly local transport services which meet the mobility requirements of the urban population and provide individual transport solutions from A to B where they are used (on-demand). This solution will also take account of the needs of all users with restricted mobility, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. The project will also analyse the social effects of self-driving transport services to develop autonomous local public transport solutions in future based on real-world application and to meet the needs of society.
The SmartShuttles will run on-demand in Uvrier
The long-term goal of the SmartShuttle in Sion is the complete integration of self-driving shuttles into the public transport system. PostBus essentially sees self-driving shuttles as a last-mile application which supplements the existing public transport system, while also providing on-demand mobility. PostBus is working closely with the Mobility Lab and local authorities in Sion on the challenge of how self-driving shuttles can be integrated into cities or municipalities to achieve maximum benefits for the community. This involves the integration of this technology into the extensive eco-system of urban transport, including pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles. Thanks to various research activities carried out with the SmartShuttles, PostBus is already able to outline the options for the integration of self-driving shuttles. Interfaces were designed for effectively communicating the intentions of the self-driving shuttles to other road users. PostBus – together with HES-SO – will also focus more intensively on the inclusion of people with disabilities/the elderly and on on-demand transport services.
The suburban municipality of Uvrier provides the ideal environment for taking a step closer towards this ambitious goal. An extensive network with bus stops will be installed in Uvrier. The vision is to provide a door-to-door service with flexible stops as soon as this is technically feasible and legally permissible.
PostBus has already gained experience with various on-demand projects in other regions of Switzerland. In Uvrier, PostBus now has the opportunity to combine various specialist disciplines to create an integrated self-driving, on-demand system.
A programme created by the Swiss start-up Bestmile monitors and controls the two autonomous vehicles. The Bestmile app, the Bestmile Control Center (fleet management and customer app) and the platform provided by Avenue make it easy to book journeys and monitor operations.
The following services are to be provided in Uvrier:
- Automated journey suggestions (algorithm-based journey planning)
- Booking via call center (conventional journey planning for people without smartphones) or by booking on a touch display at the railway station
- Help requests and visualisation of the journey/destination in real time
- Integration of rail connections into the SmartShuttle App
Use of state-of-the-art technology
The vehicles were developed by the French company Navya and are completely electric. The two shuttles transport up to 11 people at a maximum speed of 20 km/h through the streets of the Valais capital (a maximum of four people per shuttle is permitted under the current safety regulations). They are always accompanied by trained staff, but run completely autonomously and do not have a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator. There is an emergency button to stop the vehicle if need be. Thanks to state-of-the-art sensors, the vehicles are guided to the centimetre when moving through the streets, and they recognize any obstacles and signalling on the road during the day and at night.
The project is also supported by Siemens Mobility AG. It is helping to significantly improve the safety of the operation of self-driving vehicles. Siemens’ technical solution is based on object recognition in real time using infrared cameras. The cameras are attached to a light mast and capture vehicles travelling on a roundabout at a distance of 50 metres. If the safety driver wishes to go over the roundabout, they receive visual and acoustic feedback on their tablet showing whether the roundabout can be crossed safely. The Siemens system will interact directly with the vehicle in future.
In collaboration with Animatico AG, PostBus is offering passengers in Uvrier a very special feature. Animatico is a spin-off from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich that has developed a technology that can bring interactive avatars to life. The aim of this collaboration is to create an avatar-based user interface on a large touch screen for ordering self-driving shuttle buses at St. Léonard train station in Uvrier. These avatars recognize the customers on the screen and use natural language and non-verbal communication to interact with them. Compared with traditional input devices (e.g. touch screens), the avatars are much more intuitive, user-friendly and hygienic.
Special authorization required
Special authorization from the authorities is required to carry out the pilot tests in the city of Sion. PostBus is collaborating closely on this pilot project with the vehicle manufacturer and the relevant authorities at federal, cantonal and municipal level. Passenger safety is of paramount importance for all companies and institutions involved in the tests.
Testing the use of autonomous shuttles in public areas
The pilot project in Sion enabled PostBus and the city of Sion to clearly establish that the use of self-driving shuttles in public spaces provides added value for customers. In the follow-up project, the transport company and the Valais capital hope to gain valuable experience with new forms of personal mobility and to create the opportunity to provide access to places not previously served by public transport. Particular emphasis is being placed on the on-demand components which are to be tested in cooperation with the Avenue research project.