Robbert Lohmann, Chief Commercial Officer 2getthere
“This is a 3rd-generation system; the product of 20 years of experience with earlier generations.”
First autonomous system
In the coming years, 2getthere’s ParkShuttle in the Rotterdam region (Capelle aan den IJssel) will be transformed into the world’s first autonomous system operating on public roads without featuring a safety driver or steward on board. With the ParkShuttle, the city aims to further increase regional accessibility. It’s a world premiere for the Netherlands: no permanent autonomous system operates on public roads anywhere in the world.
The first phase of the new system will be operational by 2019. Today, the city of Capelle aan den IJssel, De Verkeersonderneming and technology supplier 2getthere signed an agreement to this end. The new system will also be the first system to meet the certification criteria for the draft legislation governing the use of self-driving vehicles in the Netherlands (Experimenteerwet zelfrijdende auto).
The ParkShuttle that runs between metro station Kralingse Zoom and business park Rivium is the first urban driverless vehicle system in the Netherlands and has been operational since 1999. In the 17 years that have passed, more than six million passengers have used the system. It has been a long-standing ambition of the city of Capelle aan den IJssel and 2getthere to renew the system and expand the route via existing public roads.
Now this ambition will become reality. 2getthere will supply six new shuttle vehicles (GRTs) with a capacity to transport 500 passengers per hour in each direction. The new GRTs will be operational on the current route in the summer of 2019. In 2020, this route will be extended towards a stop at the Van Brienenoord bridge where passengers can board the Waterbus. The route will run over public roads, amongst manually driven traffic. The Waterbus connects the ‘Drecht cities’ (Alblasserdam, Dordrecht, Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, Papendrecht, Sliedrecht and Zwijndrecht) with Rotterdam, with the ParkShuttle providing access to the Rotterdam metro network. It is expected that the ParkShuttle will see a 20% increase in daily passenger numbers as a result of the extension.
Safe and ready for public roads
The extension of the current route is a world first. Demonstrations with stewards on board (level 3 autonomy) are conducted regularly, but there is no autonomous system operating on a public road and in mixed traffic without a steward (level 4 autonomy) anywhere in the world. Although 2getthere has global experience developing fully autonomous public transport systems, this is the first time that so many level crossings with regular traffic and pedestrians have to be configured.
According to 2getthere’s CCO Robbert Lohmann, this is now a feasible challenge due to a combination of spatial planning and the latest technological developments, ensuring optimum safety for all road users. Lohmann: ‘Bear in mind that this is a third-generation system; it is the product of 20 years of experience with earlier generations. Driving autonomously on public roads has become part of our technological road map and ties in with our vision on autonomous transportation in general. Not only the system itself is taken into account but also how autonomous transport fits into the urban environment.’
2getthere expects the Lower Chamber of the Dutch Parliament to vote in favour of the new bill on the experimental use of self-driving vehicles that will be discussed next year. Lohmann: ‘This bill determines what authorisation requirements are appropriate for fully autonomous vehicles. We are currently looking into this with the Dutch Government Road Transport Agency (RDW) to determine what is required and how to fulfil the most stringent safety requirements. This alone shows that this is truly a pioneering project.’
Investment >EUR 4 million
The new ParkShuttle requires a EUR 8.5 million investment, half of which will come from De Verkeersonderneming Rotterdam, a public-private partnership between the Municipality of Rotterdam, the Rotterdam/The Hague Metropolitan Area, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, and Port of Rotterdam. The investment forms part of the ‘Marktplaats voor Infrastructuur’, an initiative that promotes infrastructure-related public-private partnerships. It also underlines the ambition of the Metropolitan Area to assume a leading role in the realisation of autonomous transit.
Currently the ParkShuttle carries over 2,400 passengers daily. This number will increase significantly according to Capelle aan den IJssel’s Alderman Dick van Sluis: ‘We are exploring the possibilities to extend the route to Erasmus University Rotterdam. This extension, as well as the connection to transport over water, will result in a massive increase in the amount of passengers. We are also anticipating the realisation of Rotterdam’s new stadium Feyenoord City, allowing spectators and visitors of events to travel from Rivium. The business park will be able to welcome many visitors who aren’t necessarily reliant on their car, which fits really well with our ambition to transform it into the Rivium Campus: an attractive urban environment where working, living and leisure go hand in hand.’