Market Assessment Research Finds Current Automation Technology for Non-transit Vehicles May Have Limited Applicability for Transit Service.

Transit Bus Automation Market Assessment Report Conveys the State of Automated Transit Technology to Help Appropriately Manage Expectations and Assist in Transit Agency Planning.

Date Posted

Transit Bus Automation Market Assessment

Summary Information

A market assessment report was developed to convey the state of automated transit bus technology in terms of its availability, capabilities, and limitations. The report aimed to help appropriately manage expectations and inform the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), transit agencies, and other transit industry stakeholders interested in understanding the market for automated transit bus technology. The assessment considered automation at all levels and included a broad definition of transit bus, including a range of passenger capacities and both traditional and novel vehicle designs. For the study, various types of literature related to domestic and international efforts to develop and test transit bus automation system were scanned, including press releases, company websites, and other publicly available materials. The findings from the literature were used to conduct an outreach effort through phone interviews and in-person meetings with industry representatives. Most representatives contacted included bus manufacturers, suppliers, and new entrants as described below:

  • Bus manufacturers are interested in developing buses with automation systems. They are engaged in various activities such as in-house technology development, reaching out to suppliers who are developing systems, and developing partnerships with other organizations in automation.
  • Supplier Firms develop, manufacture, and sell components or systems needed to enable automation such as steering, braking, or sensing systems.
  • New Entrants develop technologies for transit bus automation. These types of companies may be providers of automated shuttles or transportation network companies (TNCs) with automated vehicle programs (ride-hailing with automation).

Lessons Learned

The main key findings of this report include the following:

  • Attention is needed when adopting current automation technology designed for non-transit vehicles because they may have limited applicability for transit service.
  • It is important to appropriately manage expectations and communicate a realistic depiction of the current state of the bus automation industry as media coverage related to new transit bus automation products or capabilities is often ahead of actual technology development.
  • Understanding pedestrian and occupant behavior and safety, insurance and liability, operator acceptance, new service models and new requirements in workforce skills and capabilities are needed.
  • Although the relatively small market and high level of customization has thus far resulted in high costs for bus automation programs and pilots, Federal grants and programs can help enable research, demonstration, and implementation.
  • Different objectives exist for different stakeholders. While companies are developing capabilities for unstaffed operation, transit agencies plan to retain an official staff presence on vehicles for the foreseeable future.
  • Participation of bus manufacturers is necessary to develop transit systems that are safe and scalable.
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