Deploy Automated Shuttle Systems with Initial Low Operating Speeds for a Smoother Transition into Mixed Vehicle Environments.

Year-Long Study Evaluated Level 4 Automated Shuttle Operations in Australia on a University Campus that Mirrored a Typical Urban Environment.

Date Posted
11/20/2023
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Identifier
2023-L01201

FUTURE-DRIVEN AUTONOBUS PILOT PROJECT AT LA TROBE UNIVERSITY

Summary Information

Automated vehicles (AVs) have the potential to provide an environment-friendly, smart and affordable mode of transportation. This project presents the outcomes from a year-long (June 2017 - 2018) automated shuttle pilot deployment at the flagship Bundoora Campus of La Trobe University (LTU) in Melbourne, Australia. The Level 4 AV shuttle piloted had the ability to operate in fully automated mode on mapped routes, or have an operator intervene and stop the vehicle, if needed. The site utilized for the deployment closely mirrored a typical urban environment, with the AV shuttle following an itinerary that was approximately 2.5km (1.6mile) long, providing an excellent example for the researchers to evaluate the interaction of the AV shuttle with other traffic modes and to demonstrate the long-term operations and commercial benefits, safety challenges and customers’ uptake from the new transport solution. The study collected lessons learned to enable future successful deployments of AVs where applicable and viable, with hopes that in the future they are fully integrated into the range of transport solutions available to residents and businesses in the deployment area.

Lessons Learned

  • Start with a low operating speed for smoother deployment of automated shuttle systems in mixed automated and traditional vehicle environments. This project demonstrated that a maximum speed of 18 km/hr (11.2 mph) ensures effective response and braking. It also found that operation above 30km/hr (18.6 mph) would bring in additional risks, such as the structural integrity of the vehicle and whiplash for passengers, which should be tested and addressed through vehicle and restraint design. A a result, this project suggests beginning with a low speed to allow all road users to become accustomed to AV shuttle operations, then gradually increasing the speed to the targeted operational level.
  • Have an operator as a fall-back for unforeseen circumstances. This is invaluable, particularly when piloting this technology in an urbanized environment. 
  • Establish connectivity between the AV and other infrastructure. This kind of communication with infrastructure such as traffic signals should first be tested to see how well the AV responds to impending threats, as well as testing a remote monitoring management platform for operational areas.
  • Raise awareness about safely co-existing with AVs in traffic. Campaigns targeting all users (including the elderly, users with disabilities or language barriers, and families travelling with strollers) can help raise awareness about how to behave around AVs. Such campaigns would communicate messages associated with the benefits of the service and the alleviation of potential concerns, further promoting safety and user attraction.  
  • Develop a formal safety accreditation for AVs. This would be beneficial in assuring the proper control and operation of AV technology at the manufacturing stage. Furthermore, such safety certification would make transportation agencies and operators feel more comfortable, reducing the burden on projects in terms of additional tests and paperwork.
  • Facilitate interaction of AV shuttles with other road users in realistic but safe and comfortable geometric settings. The operating environment used in the deployment not only included pedestrians, cyclists, private cars, delivery vehicles and public and university shuttle bus services, but also a roundabout, pedestrian crossing and transport interchanges, all within a dense urban area. For ease of future deployments conducted in mixed traffic settings, it would be beneficial to provide a dedicated lane for AVs to overcome the speed issue and/or share bus lanes.