Cooperating to introduce autonomous shuttles
As part of an initiative by MLIT (the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transit), 2getthere Asia as subcontractor to Toyota Tsusho Corporation provided two demonstrations at Sendai Airport (Japan). In October and December 2018 our 3rd generation GRT vehicle was featured on the airside apron in mixed traffic, interacting with a variety of other vehicles featured on the airside. The tests were carefully designed to show mixed operations capabilities, with objects placed on the path, along the route and intersecting with manually driven vehicles.
Autonomous on the airport apron
The demonstrations were organized as a step towards integrating autonomous shuttles on the airport apron, delivering passengers to planes not connected to an airbridge. The key requirement for the application is the route is not dedicated to the automated system, sharing the road with manually driven traffic on the airside. As the vehicles shuttle between the stairs and the terminal building, there are intersections with other vehicles entering the route from any of the adjacent airplane positions. The automated system needed to take into account cross traffic of both motorized traffic and pedestrians.
The airside resembles a city center in the diversity of traffic and traffic movements, although in an environment where access is controlled and behavior can influenced through training. For any application where automated/autonomous vehicles are expected to operate amongst manually driven vehicles, the challenge is to ensure safety (of both passengers and the surroundings) and maintain throughput (of both the automatically and manually driven systems) – all while taking into account any applicable constraints. In specific for Sendai Airport these constraints concern operating on an airport and in Japan.