Dick van Sluis, Alderman Roads and Transit, City of Capelle aan den IJssel
[quote]”We are realizing more-and-more that the we have been ahead of our time with the ParkShuttle.”[/quote]
The world’s first driverless vehicle, the ParkShuttle at business park Rivium in the city of Capelle aan den IJssel (the Netherlands) will continue operations for at least 2 more years. The Metropolitan region Rotterdam The Hague (MRDH) confirmed the extension until late 2018 of the concession of operator Connexxion last week. The city of Capelle aan den IJssel has voiced the intent to renew the system and expand it once the concession runs out.
The ParkShuttle is operational since 1999, making it the first driverless vehicle system in the world. In the 17 years that have passed, it has grown into a big success with the system carrying over 2,000 passengers per day. Although not showing their age, the currently operational vehicles are over 13 years old and have each driven over 200,000 kilometers. As part of the extension of the concession remedial works will be conducted to correct the rutting of the road and restore the driving comfort.
The high appreciation scores of the passengers in combination with the positive influence of the system on business park Rivium as a location for companies, are the basis of the decision to extend the concession. A recent survey of passengers shows the ParkShuttle scores favorably in comparison to a bus service on reliability, operational hours, waiting times and passenger information.
The city of Capelle aan den IJssel has the intent to renew and extend the system by late 2018. The initial extension will be towards a stop at the ‘Van Brienenoord’ bridge where a station for the Waterbus will be created. In addition the location will house a rental facility for electric bikes. The route to this location runs over public roads, amongst manually driven traffic. As such the ParkShuttle is likely to be the first autonomous system operating in mixed traffic without actually featuring a safety driver or steward on-board.
Ahead of Time
‘We are realizing more-and-more that the we have been ahead of our time with the ParkShuttle’, comments Alderman Dick van Sluis, responsible for Roads and Transport. ‘Where autonomous transit has only become a hot item in the last 2 years, we have experience dating back to 1999. That gives us a great advantage and ensures we are in the spotlight both within the Netherlands and internationally.’
Within the region administered by MRDH there are several other locations where autonomous transit is being considered. Alderman Van Sluis: ‘Now that the concession has been extended, it allows looking at other systems and extending the ParkShuttle. The latter is our challenge for the upcoming period: how can the ParkShuttle contribute to the development of Rivium to an attractive and innovative location for companies.’
Focus on Innovation
Naturally Eric Bavelaar, managing director Connexxion for the West Region, is very appreciative of the extension: ‘It is vital that in a time where we foresee mobility significantly changing in the coming 15 years, we expand on the basis that was founded with the city of Capelle aan den IJssel and MRDH.’ As an important stakeholder in public transit, Connexxion focuses on innovation with the ParkShuttle being a primary example. As such Connexxion will also deploy additional service employees to stimulate the use of the ParkShuttle system.
2getthere is currently developing its 3rd generation automated vehicle, incorporating the sensory systems to be able to drive in mixed traffic. The new vehicles are lighter, completely bidirectional and feature air-conditioning. The first prototype will be available end of January 2017. 2getthere is in contact with the city, MRDH and Connexxion about using these vehicles for the extension and renewal of the application.
2getthere’s CEO Carel van Helsdingen: “We are pleased with the 2 years’ extension and the ambition of the government to renew and extend the system. However, what pleases us even more is the positive ratings by the passengers of the system. Over the years the vehicles have proven their reliability and service level during all weather circumstances.”