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safety-security-reliability

safety, security and reliabilityRobbert Lohmann, Chief Commercial Officer

If we really want to learn more about autonomous transit systems we’ll have to look at permanent systems in daily use.

safety, security and reliability

The autonomous vehicles that the Dutch municipality of Capelle aan den IJssel deploys to connect the Rivium business park and metro station Kralingse Zoom received high marks for safety, security and reliability by passengers. This is the outcome of a quantitative study into the ease of use of the ParkShuttle connection. Furthermore, the study shows that reliability is ultimately the decisive factor in passengers’ readiness to use any kind of autonomous public transport.

The study (N=109) was conducted by Jochem van der Burg, a social geography student at Utrecht University. He focused on seven operational factors of the ParkShuttle: (1) safety and security, (2) reliability, (3) travel time, (4) information services, (5) price and payment system, (6) comfort and (7) integration in the public transport network. The aim was to establish which of these operational factors most determines ease of use and how the insights gained from the study could be used in the decision-making process of autonomous transit systems elsewhere.

Overall, 90% of the respondents were positive about the ease of use of ParkShuttle, giving it an average mark of 7.2 on a scale of one to ten. Reliability proved to be the most decisive factor: four out of five respondents said they felt the system was reliable, mainly because of its frequency and punctuality.

This will only get better in the future, said Robbert Lohmann, CCO of 2getthere (the developers of the shuttles). “The autonomous vehicles currently in use are in excellent condition, but nevertheless they are 15 years old. When we introduce the third generation of vehicles, reliability will further improve and as a result so will ease of use. The same applies to comfort, another factor of influence.”

Contradicting results

Despite the fact that ParkShuttle in Rivium is still unique as it is the only permanent autonomous shuttle system integrated in a public transport schedule, Van den Burg was able to compare the results of his study with those of various demonstrations across the globe. This led to some surprising conclusions.

For instance, it became clear that ParkShuttle passengers’ appreciation of security was relatively high (they felt that criminal activity on the shuttle was very unlikely), despite the absence of on-board stewards. This contrasts remarks by passengers in a demonstration in Vantaa, Finland, who provided a low score for security despite the presence of safety stewards in its set-up. A possible reason for this lies in ParkShuttle’s passenger capacity and the resulting social control. Vehicles in the Finnish demonstration carry no more than ten passengers, whereas the autonomous shuttles in Capelle aan den IJssel carry up to 24.

Demonstrations versus live situations

Lohmann’s response to this: “Another obvious difference lies in the fact that response in the Rivium study is based on the experience of commuters who have been using the shuttle service for several years. Finnish respondents were asked for their impressions after a ride in a temporary demonstration, meaning their response is more likely based on expectation than actual experience. As far as we’re concerned, this shows the relatively low value of such demonstrations. If we really want to learn more about autonomous transit systems we’ll have to look at permanent systems in daily use. Sadly, those are still few and far between.”

Information to improve

Although information services play a relatively minor role in ease of use, this factor received the lowest scores. This applied to the information provided at stops and on the shuttles, as well as the ready availability of information in case of delays or cancellations.

Lohmann: “This will soon be a thing of the past. As part of the renewal and extension of the system for Rivium 3.0 we will be installing information kiosks at shuttle stops to display system status and the time that the next shuttle will arrive. Inside the shuttles the current single information displays with push buttons will be replaced by two 19” vertical touch screens displaying up-to-the-minute information about the shuttle’s travel time.”

Lohmann is convinced that this study will help the organization of future autonomous systems in public transport. “Many demonstrations are set up to find out if people are prepared to use autonomous public transport systems,” says the 2getthere executive. “This study shows that such demonstrations are no longer necessary, as it’s now clear that people have no trouble embracing systems that are punctual, safe and reliable. Add to that a solid business case and you’re ready to take the next step towards a permanent application.”

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Happy with Sjoerd investigating autonomous vehicles at Rivium

Blij met SjoerdRobbert Lohmann, Chief Commercial Officer

Some days are simply better than others.

Blij met Sjoerd!

Sjoerd works for supermarket chain Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, but is also an aspiring vlogger. In his series ‘Blij met Sjoerd’ he chases news that makes people happy. When chasing news he’s chauffeured by his driver, and best friend, Ron. How will autonomous cars influence their friendship? Sjoerd doesn’t want to miss Ron, so he sets on a mission to find out what autonomous vehicles are all about, visiting the autonomous shuttle application at Rivium business park in Capelle aan den IJssel. We had a blast supporting the recording: some days are simply better than others!

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Workhorse testing of the 3rd generation vehicle

Workhorse-testingRobbert Lohmann, Chief Commercial Officer

[quote]”It is really good to see testing progressing for the projects in delivery – especially the speed is impressive.”[/quote]
 

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Workhorse Testing

For the new generation GRT vehicle workhorse testing is progressing. At 2getthere’s Utrecht based testsite, the verification and validation team has been busy for months with vehicle tests. On Friday April 5th we filmed one of the first tests with a fully loaded vehicle at 35 kilometers per hour. Even though the speed is already impressive, we are even more pleased with the stability and comfort on the vehicle on the uneven surface and the low noise levels. The workhorse testing is a typical step in 2getthere’s system lifecycle approach. After having tested the basic functionality of the vehicle platform over the last few months, we have now reached the stage where higher velocity tests are being conducted. Once all these tests pass, we’ll move on to a similar phased testing program for the first prototype.

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Differntiator

Robbert Lohmann, Chief Commercial Officer: “With the Bluewaters and Rivium projects under contract, it is really good to see testing progressing. We have a very good team that is working dilligently on completing the engineering and the testing of the new generation vehicle. Together with the cutting-edge supervisory system, it easily puts ahead of the remainder of the market. In terms of fucntionality, technology robustness and driving behavior, 2getthere’s offering is simply much better. More and more we also see the market becoming aware and realizing that we deliver a lot more than a simple demonstration.’

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Connexxion selected to operate Rivium 3.0

connexxion awarded operationsBram Moelker, operator Connexxion

“This is great news. We look forward to continuing to operate the system for the next 15 years.”

Connexxion awarded operations

In the coming years, 2getthere’s new GRT vehicles will transform the ParkShuttle in Capelle aan den IJssel into the world’s first autonomous system operating on public roads without featuring a safety driver or steward on board. To enable this the Metropolitan region Rotterdam The Hague (MRDH) has awarded to concession to operate the ParkShuttle from 2018 through 2033 to public transit operating company Connexion, part of Transdev. When the first driverless vehicles hit the public roads in 2020, it is a world first established by the metropolitan region. Lennart Harpe, responsible for public transit development at MRDH: ‘This concession underlines MRDH’s ambition to further increase regional mobility and to support the Roadmap NextEconomy by becoming an internationally leading research- and application area for autonomous transit for the last mile.’

The ParkShuttle system between subway station Kralingse Zoom in Rotterdam and business park Rivium in Capelle aan den IJssel is the first urban autonomous transit system in the Netherlands and in operation since 1999. Over the years over 6 million passengers have used the system.

>20% increase in daily usage

The current system will be replaced with 6 GRT (Group Rapid Transit) vehicles manufactured by 2getthere, which provide a capacity of approximately 500 passengers per hour per direction. The service will commence on the current trajectory by the summer of 2019. The extension over public roads towards the new to be established stop of the Waterbus will commence in 2020.

The renewal and extension of the ParkShuttle system has been the ambition of the city of Capelle aan den IJssel for a while. The system carries over 2,200 passengers on a daily basis. According to alderman Dick van Sluis this number will increase significantly: ‘With the extension in 2020 the system in the unique link between the Waterbus and the subway network of Rotterdam. We expect the number of daily passengers to increase with 20% as a result.’

MRDH contributes 600,000 Euro per year to the operations of the system. The city of Capelle aan den IJssel and De Verkeersonderming contributed financially to the delivery of the system.

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Operations contract of Driverless Parkshuttle extended with 2 years

ParkShuttleDick 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]
 

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Extension ParkShuttle

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. 

Extension ParkShuttle

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.

   

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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.”

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[one_half] The business park Rivium operations are currently facing an increased number of passengers daily as a result of building works adjacent to the track. Due the construction of a new parking facility, the bike path and walkway adjacent to the track have had to be closed down, with the people being carried by the ParkShuttle system.

As the construction also diminishes the number of parking spots available, a temporary parking has been created on the other side of the A16. Passengers that used to get directly on the metro, now first use the ParkShuttle to get to the metro.[/one_half]

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As a result the capacity of the ParkShuttle system is not sufficient any longer to deal with the demand on the system. For this purpose operating company ConneXXion has added two manually driven mini-busses to the operations. One mini-bus serves the passengers with bikes, while the other serves as a short connection between the temporary parking at the metro station.

The video provides an impression of a typical morning rush hour with the arrival of metro. The images are taken from a CCTV camera part of the system and accelerated – the real time interval is approximately 20 minutes.

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The first urban autonomous operations at Rivium

Rivium Business Park

When Rivium business park was first created it required a good public transit connection. With a relatively small distance (1.2 kilometers) to metro station Kralingse Zoom, it was felt that an automated system would be preferred over a manually driven bus due to the repetitive nature. As a rail solution was deemed to expensive, autonomous shuttles were suggested. Based on its experience with automated vehicles in the Port of Rotterdam, 2getthere was selected as supplier.

Initial Installation

The initial installation featured 3 vehicles, each accommodating up to 10 passengers. The route is realized on what was previously planned as a bike path: should the system not deliver on its promises, it allows for the infrastructure to continue to be used. It also means operations on a single lane, with designated locations to allow vehicles from the opposite direction to pass. A landmark bridge over a major highway ensures entry to the Rivium business park.

Lessons learned

While intended for 1 year only, the system operated for nearly 3 years. At that time it was concluded that it did deliver the transit service desired, with improvements to comfort, reliability and capacity desired. The transit operator Connexxion set up a list of requirements to tranform the vehicles from machines to means of public transit. One of the vehicles served in the Schiphol application for several years, before also being decommisioned.

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12 years of level 4 autonomous operations at Rivium

System configuration

In 2006 the system is replaced with 2nd generation vehicles. The route is extended with two additional stations, to serve deeper into the business park. Another station is added to serve the new business park Brainpark III and the residential area Fascinatio developed along the existing route. The length of the route is increased to 1.8 kilometers, with several at grade intersections for cars (3) and pedestrians (5). The bridge remains single lane to avoid the required additional investment.

Daily Operations

The system is operational on weekdays as it primarily serves the business park. Operating between 06.00am and 09.00pm, the six vehicles carry approximately 2,500 passengers per day. In the peak hours all vehicles are operational at a 2.5 minute headway, providing a capacity of approximately 500 passengers per hour per direction. In the off-peak hours vehicles alternate charging. The system is in revenue service, integrated in the national ride fare system of the Netherlands.

12 years of service

The first vehicles were completed in 2004, serving in various demonstrations within Europe before commencing service at Rivium in 2006. After an initial concession of 5 years, Connexxion is awarded a second term of 5 years and a subsequent 2 year extension. In the 12 years of operations, each vehicle has exceeded 250,000 kilometers driven. The operations are supervised by a single operator per shift, who who is also responsible for cleaning and sales of individual tickets.

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