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last mile

self-driving people mover makes its maiden trip at Brussels Airport

This self-driving shuttle is state-of-the-art technology that fuels the imagination. It is an investment in the future, in efficiency, in image and in the seductive power of our public transport. 

Maiden trip at Brussels Airport

The self-driving people mover has clocked up its first few metres at Brussels Airport. Over the coming 3 days, the shuttle bus will perform several demo trips without passengers to test the technology in a real-life environment. These tests see De Lijn and Brussels Airport’s ambitious pilot project step up a gear. In 2021, the self-driving people mover will commute autonomously between the terminal and cargo business area and parking lots. “It’s set to become the showpiece of public transport in Flanders,” says Flemish Minister for Mobility, Ben Weyts. “Foreign visitors will instantly perceive us as an innovative region.”

Brussels Airport is the setting for an ambitious pilot project with a self-driving people mover operated by De Lijn. In the coming days, the shuttle bus from manufacturer 2getthere will make its first demo trips past the terminal so passengers who stop at the spring terrace will be able to see it drive by. For the time being, the bus will run without passengers. Driverless vehicles abroad typically drive in their own dedicated lanes. However, the pilot project at Brussels Airport ultimately aims to enable the self-driving shuttle to navigate autonomously through mixed traffic.

“This self-driving shuttle is state-of-the-art technology that fuels the imagination,” says Flemish Minister for Mobility, Ben Weyts. “And this pilot project is bringing that imagination to life. We’re harnessing innovation to further strengthen the De Lijn service offering. This is an investment in the future, in efficiency, in image and in the seductive power of our public transport. Flanders and De Lijn are playing a truly pioneering role in this regard.”

“‘Intelligent mobility’ is one of our strategic priorities for sustainable development over the coming years,” says Brussels Airport Company CEO, Arnaud Feist. “We want to encourage passengers and employees to increasingly travel to the airport by public transport. This joint project with De Lijn, which commenced in 2015, is one of the initiatives specifically aimed at achieving this objective. We’re now exploring how self-driving buses can be deployed to improve the efficiency of passenger transport on the airport grounds.”

Innovation presents fantastic opportunities

The self-driving electric bus follows virtual routes which it uses to continuously calculate its position. Deviations from the planned route are corrected on the basis of artificial reference points. The vehicles are also equipped with sensors for detecting other objects in the vicinity.

CEO of manufacturer 2getthere, Carel C. van Helsdingen, states: “De Lijn and Brussels Airport are setting a new global standard with this project. Selection, based on specific reliability and safety requirements in addition to proven test results, requires a rigorous approach based on innovative technology. It’s a challenging project and we’re proud to have been selected as the manufacturer. We’re looking forward to our continued collaboration, the system rollout and the future transportation of passengers.”

The technology can also help support drivers in the field of road safety. And there are benefits for tourism too. Foreign visitors instantly perceive Flanders as a contemporary region, where investments are made in innovation.

“We’re on the verge of a breakthrough in autonomous transport,” confirms De Lijn director general, Roger Kesteloot. “It’s now a question of getting on board and developing technology tailored to public transport. In the context of basic accessibility, we’re working on the development of a highly developed basic network. If we can reinforce this with a flexible range of shared shuttle vehicles, then we can satisfy the major mobility challenges of the future.”

Driverless shuttle service between airport terminal and cargo business zone

De Lijn and Brussels Airport Company intend launching an autonomous shuttle service between the airport terminal and the cargo business zone and parking areas in 2021. Safe, sustainable and flexible self-driving electric people movers will be deployed to provide a high frequency service. The shuttle is intended to run independently at an average speed of 20 km/hour over a short, fixed route that’s equipped with magnets and sensors. The magnets are located in the ground and serve as beacons that indicate the way. The sensors are built into the bus in order to detect other objects in the vicinity. Local modifications may be needed to reduce traffic complexity. However, as the people mover is designed to share the road with other traffic, no separate lanes will be required.

The next steps in the self-driving people mover project:

  • The pilot project is currently in the development phase. Test rides will be conducted on-site at the manufacturer, 2getthere, in Utrecht in order to test the technology. The technology will be further developed based on these results.
  • In the course of 2020, additional testing will take place over a longer period in mixed traffic, in the Brucargo business zone. The test rides will be carried out without passengers, however, there will be a steward on board. They are intended to test the bus operation in all weather conditions and traffic scenarios. All competent authorities will monitor the development process.
  • Should these tests reap positive results, the passenger system can be further expanded, and the dispatch centre, bus stop interfaces and charging stations additionally incorporated. The aim is to then operate the people movers without a steward on board, but instead monitor the rides from a dispatch centre.
  • Passenger transport is anticipated to commence mid-2021.
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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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When will autonomous transit be a reality? (whitepaper)

Robbert Lohmann, Chief Commercial Officer 2getthere

“As soon as possible, we should be deploying applications that actually work in the here and now.”

Autonomous transit a reality

Large-scale introduction of driverless vehicles in modern urban traffic is an unlikely scenario for the next 10 to 15 years. This is the conclusion of a whitepaper, ‘When will autonomous transit be a reality’, published today by 2getthere, the Utrecht-based company that specializes in autonomous transit solutions. Instead of focusing solely on technology that makes cars autonomous, it would be better to work towards an urban traffic infrastructure in which a gradual development can take place from semi-autonomous vehicles to fully autonomous ones.

According to the authors of the whitepaper, Robbert Lohmann and Sjoerd van der Zwaan, 2getthere’s Chief Operations Officer and Chief Technology Officer, the world of autonomous transit is characterized by a watershed. On the one side we see the car manufacturers, who are betting heavily on technology that will enable cars to find their way without the help of a driver on the highway within just a few years. On the other side are the developers of automated systems of public transport, who connect vehicle autonomy with obstacle detection and separate lanes. Semi-autonomous systems like this are already in use with more soon to be operational, for instance in the Netherlands at the Rivium Businesspark in Capelle aan den IJssel and in Masdar City (Abu Dhabi). From 2019 Dubai will also be operating such a system connecting the Dubai subway system with Bluewaters Island, just off the Dubai coast. The Bluewaters Island APM will be a sustainable and autonomous system carrying up to 5,000 passengers per hour in each direction.

Read and download here the whitepaper: ‘When will autonomous transit be a reality?’

Autonomous transit systems

‘What we see happening is that car manufacturers and tech-companies are spending massively on marketing and organizing spectacular pilot projects in a bid to win over the public as well as the decision-makers in government’, says Lohmann. ‘However, our conclusion is that in reality, despite undeniable leaps in technology, fully autonomous cars (level 5) will not hit the road for many years – if ever.

In our whitepaper, therefore, we make a case for a paradigm shift: first start deploying automated transit systems in controlled environments (level 4), and then slowly, step by step, reduce the level of control. This will allow the technology to develop towards maturity without risking passenger safety.’

Gradual development

The strength of 2getthere’s philosophy is that society will soon be able to reap the benefits of autonomous transit without the disadvantages of the rule of the restrictive headstart. ‘Autonomous vehicles can add a significant amount of capacity to existing public transport, as they are a natural extension as feeder systems,’ says Lohmann. ‘Capelle in the Netherlands is a picture perfect example, where our Parkshuttle has for many years already been a popular “last mile” solution to get from the Kralingse Zoom subway station to Rivium Businesspark. It was recently decided to renew the existing Parkshuttle system and to expand its route to include a section of public road. This way we will be able to incrementally move towards a situation in which all forms of transportation, such as cars, bicycles, water bus, Parkshuttle and subway trains are seamlessly connected. Autonomous transit systems will soon be genuinely integrated into the transport chain.’

According to the authors, business campuses but also airfields are the perfect location for groundbreaking experiments in autonomous transit solutions. Lohmann: ‘The parameters in these locations are well known and you know which settings can be adjusted. Demonstrations of things that might be possible many years from now can be sexy, but we should be careful not to give decision-makers the wrong impression. As soon as possible, we should be deploying applications that actually work in the here and now, and on the basis of our experience introduce new generation after new generation. We predict that this will be a faster route towards autonomous transportation.’

Read and download also the whitepaper (July 2017): ‘Automation and Smart Cities: Opportunity or threat?’

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Oceaneering and 2getthere sign a teaming agreement for transit at theme parks

 Carel van Helsdingen, Chief Executive Officer 2getthere

“For us, this is an affirmation of our market-leading position in the area of autonomous vehicles.”

Long-term agreement for entertainment industry

2getthere, a pioneer and worldwide market leader in autonomous passenger vehicles and automated people mover solutions, today announced they have signed a long-term agreement with Oceaneering International, Inc. (“Oceaneering”) (NYSE: OII) headquartered in Houston, Texas. This agreement will combine the expertise and capabilities of these two companies to collaborate in the design, development and advancement of automated people-mover systems serving the U.S. markets and Entertainment venues worldwide. Leading the efforts for Oceaneering will be a division of its Advanced Technologies business segment, Oceaneering Entertainment Systems (“OES”). The agreement combines the key strategic strengths of both companies, utilizing Oceaneering’s engineering, production, and market expertise with 2getthere’s proven automated vehicle systems, design and their time-proven navigation and traffic management software expertise.

This arrangement will introduce 2getthere’s autonomous vehicle technologies to the rapidly expanding theme park and entertainment markets around the world, building on the strong relationships that have been developed with OES over the past 12 years. These people-mover systems are ideally suited for the significant transportation solutions that are required at these large venues, allowing for the safe, efficient and cost-effective movement of resort guests. By providing flexible point-to-point inter-connections from auto parking areas, public transit nodes, and nearby hotels to, in, and around these often massive resort complexes, AGVs have become increasingly attractive to owner-operators around the globe.

2getthere and Oceaneering are building upon a long period of successful cooperation. The companies collaborated on several early concept and schematic designs for some large-scale people mover systems in several U.S. states beginning as early as 2004. While none of those were ever realized, the companies both recognized the huge potential of these systems, and the mutual success of their collaborations. That success continued when 2getthere assisted FROG AGV, another Utrecht-based company later purchased by Oceaneering, with the first implementation of Oceaneering’s award-winning REVOLUTION™ Tru-Trackless™ ride system at Sea World Orlando in 2012. REVOLUTION uses the same base navigation technologies as the 2getthere people-mover systems. Most recently, in 2016, the companies joined again to deliver a large-scale people-mover system in a high-profile theme park attraction in the US.

2getthere has built an impressive body of IP in the field of vehicle controls, supervisory and wayside control systems, and sensor technologies. These developments make 2getthere a world leader in autonomous vehicles and people mover systems, having delivered successful projects in Europe and the Middle East. The company currently has new projects under contract at Bluewaters Island (Dubai, UAE) and business park Rivium (Capelle aan den IJssel, the Netherlands) and is involved closely in several genesis projects in the USA.

OES is a market leading supplier of theme park dark ride vehicle systems, custom show equipment, and specialty show systems and controls. The Themed Entertainment Association awarded their coveted THEA award for Breakthrough Technology to OES for developing the REVOLUTION Tru-Trackless Dark Ride System in 2012. Oceaneering supports a wide array of industries, delivering custom solutions to solve unique and complex challenges worldwide. Oceaneering brings extensive capabilities in engineering, production, vehicle assembly and testing, deployment and commissioning, as well as industry and market expertise globally in the Theme Park and Entertainment segments. They are able to leverage expertise from many diverse industries, from deep-water ROVs to Space Systems to unique military applications, with particular emphasis on safety, maintainability and reliability engineering.

Strategic Importance

According to Carel van Helsdingen, CEO of 2getthere, this agreement acknowledges the leading position his company’s technology currently has in the field of autonomous driving and transport systems. “For an industry-leading company like Oceaneering, who are intimately familiar with automated vehicle technology for their trackless rides, to enter into an agreement with us to work together on the delivery of projects in their market is a testament to our systems. For us, this is an affirmation of our market-leading position in the area of autonomous vehicles.”

The agreement is of great strategic importance for 2getthere, as it enables the company to further penetrate into the market of automated people movers at entertainment venues world-wide, and also into large-scale campus and public transportation systems within the US. “OES has extensive knowledge in this sector and understands perfectly the demand of its customers.” Van Helsdingen also noted the key factor of Oceaneering’s significant U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities in serving the U.S. markets.

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